Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A glimpse at Trump's plans for deporting undocumented immigrants

The AAPI community will be impacted by President Trump's deportation strategy.

THE WORST FEARS of the American immigrant community may be coming true after details of Donald Trump's plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants were revealed today in draft guidelines from Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly to immigration officials.
UPDATED FEB. 22 to include White House response.
Even though Administration officials say the strict immigration enforcement will focus on those undocumented people who have broken the law, according to some immigration advocates, that could cast a much wider net if you consider entering the U.S. without documents or overstaying your visa "breaking the law.“

"President Trump’s plan for mass deportations is an affront to our values as Americans, and will strike fear in our immigrant communities that will harm our economy and public safety," said California's Sen. Kamala Harris, herself the daughter of immigrants. "These guidelines imply that all immigrants should be treated as criminals, regardless of their background or lack of criminal history, and will drain our local law enforcement resources because it makes them responsible for enforcing federal immigration law."

Of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., about 14 percent, or about 1.45 million to 1.65 million are Asian/Americans. Another way of looking at it is about 1 our of every 7 Asian immigrants is undocumented, according to the Center for Migration Studies and the Migration Policy Institute.

The memos, which still have to be given final approval by the White House, are guidelines to agents in the field to implement two executive orders signed by Trump on Jan. 25 intended to deter future migration and drive out more illegal migrants from the United States.

One memo instructs ICE agents to ignore Obama’s memos on immigration priorities that targeted only recent arrivals and convicted criminal migrants for deportation. Instead, migrants who simply have been charged with crimes but not convicted would be prioritized for deportation. The guidelines also allows ICE agents wide discretion in deciding who to deport and considers anyone in the United States illegally to be subject to deportation.

Despite the vow by President Trump to prioritize criminals for deportation, the executive order is so broad that anyone who committed even a minor offense, such as a traffic violation or jaywalking, could be deported. The order also applies to those who may have misrepresented their status to obtain work. 

The Trump Administration has outlined a mass deportation regime targeting all immigrants, including those on student visas, work visas, and the undocumented, for deportation enforcement, stated the lawyers of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

In response to journalists' questions, White House press secretary Sean Spicer sought to downplay fears about its impact. He denied the threat of "mass deportations," saying that Trump simply wants to "take the shackles" off government officials handling deportations "and say, 'You have a mission, there are laws that need to be followed, you should do your mission and follow the law.'"

The AAAJ statement also said the memos greatly increase the probability of tearing mothers and fathers from their children, leaving families with no main breadwinner, and forcing those who remain to pick up the pieces left behind from inhumane policies and enforcement efforts. 

"The enforcement memo seeks to promote fear of immigrants and orders the ICE Director to take funds from programs used to serve any undocumented immigrants – including immigrants who are trafficked and victims of crime – to this new office that will only further demonize immigrants and stir up hatred," says the AAAJ statement.

There is one ray of hope in the memos -- they leave in place Obama’s 2012 executive action that protected 750,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. The fate of the policy, known as DACA, has been hotly debated within the White House, according to Reuters. Trump said in a news conference Friday that DACA was a “very difficult subject” for him.

The ICE memo also states that immigrants will not be afforded rights under U.S. privacy laws and the hiring of 10,000 more officers to "get the job done," but doesn't say where the money will come from to pay for the additional personnel.

From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the recent profiling of Muslim and South Asian Americans in the travel ban, we are in a resurgence of xenophobia and hate that is being fueled by the Trump administration.

"Advancing Justice opposes the administration’s agenda of mass deportations and scapegoating of immigrants that are designed to create a wedge in American communities and marginalize communities of color," concludes the AAAJ statement.

“If we attack our immigrant community members, our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues, we will never be the country we aspire to be,” said Harris.