As he promised on the campaign trail, Trump has started taking steps to limit US immigration. On January 25 he held a press conference and issued two executive orders with policies and steps he plans to take. He can’t change everything on his own; Congress must take part in changing laws. He said he understands Mexico needs to be strong and healthy and will work with Mexico to deter illegal immigration there from Central America. He has not yet said anything about the DACA program which protects “Dreamers” from deportation, and there is bipartisan support for offering them legal options to stay in the US, where they’ve lived since they were children.
Here are some provisions of the two orders. More are expected tomorrow including restrictions on refugees and visas from certain countries. Details are on the White House website.One order covers “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and the other is on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”
- The following people are priorities for removal (deportation): anyone convicted of or charged with any criminal offense; or has committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; has engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency; has abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; is subject to a final order of removal, but haven’t left, or “In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.” The last sentence is very broad and could easily be abused.
- Stop federal funding of “sanctuary cities” or states. Such cities refuse to cooperate in detaining prisoners on behalf of the federal government. The federal government will report weekly on the status of cities and their compliance with federal detention policies. There will be weekly reports on the status of cities.
- Ensure that aliens ordered removed from the United States are promptly removed;
- Support victims, and the families of victims, of crimes committed by removable aliens – they’re going to create a new federal office to assist victims and publicize alleged crimes.
- Ends the policy of catch and release at the border so anyone caught at the border will be detained rather than released;
- Requires other countries to take back their criminals;
- Empowers federal officers to take and remove those who present a threat to public safety;
- Adds 5,000 more Customs and Border Protection officers;
- Triples the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
These steps put many, many people at risk of detention and deportation. If the government believes you entered on a tourist visa but intended to stay to work, you’re at risk. If you’ve used a false Social Security number you’re at risk. Basically, if you’re not a citizen you’re at risk of deportation.
A leading immigrant rights legal group, the American Immigration Council, issued this statement in response. I agree with what they say:
“These policies are a flagrant attack on immigrants and our values as Americans. Our laws dictate that everyone receives a just and fair process, whether they have been in this country for decades or are arriving today in search of safety and protection. We will not tolerate Trump’s ill-conceived policies that sideline due process. We will continue to defend the rights of immigrants and are prepared to challenge unlawful and abusive tactics in the courts. We will shine a light on the misuse of power and hold the government accountable.
Our nation needs a practical and efficient immigration policy that honors immigrants’ contributions, fuels our economy, protects families, and benefits all Americans. The President’s call to invest in immigrant detention, aggressive deportation strategies, and an unnecessary, expensive border wall is not practical, efficient, nor consistent with our values. It sends a signal that America is closed for business and that our doors are shut to those in need. We at the American Immigration Council believe in an America that honors our diversity and ingenuity and celebrates the fact that we are, and always will be, a nation of immigrants. We will carry on the fight for this America.”
America is a nation of immigrants. This is a sad day for our country.