Disturbing stories of individuals and families directly affected by the Trump Administration’s immigration policies continue to arise. Below are just some examples from the past few days. These stories beg the question: why are these the people the Trump Administration wants out of America?
Doctors Who Want to Serve America
The Providence Journal story, “Stranded Syrian doctor loses hope of returning to Brown University”, highlights how America is set to lose out on the talent and promise of a Syrian doctor who coordinated the vaccination of more than a million Syrian children against polio:
Stranded in Turkey since January, Syrian physician Dr. Khaled Almilaji lost hope Monday that he will obtain a new student visa and return to finish his Brown University master’s degree work in public health, given President Donald Trump’s new revised travel ban. Almilaji, 35, also holds out little hope of reuniting in the United States with his pregnant wife, Dr. Jehan Mouhsen, who is staying with friends in New York. Instead, he may opt for ‘Plan B,’ reuniting with Mouhsen in Canada and pursing a Master of Health Informatics at the University of Toronto.
…In 2014, he coordinated vaccination of more than 1 million Syrian children against polio, as the disease was making a comeback in the war-ravaged country. He came to Brown on full scholarship last fall.
…[Fellow Brown classmate Andriy] Chybisov called Almilaji’s possible transfer to a Canadian university ‘a heavy loss for America’s reputation as the foundation of democracy and human rights. At the same time, it is a great gain for Canada, because Dr. Almilaji is destined to make significant contribution to humanitarian response research, and any public health school will be proud to have him.’
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reminds us that Dr. Almilaji’s story is unfortunately not a unique one, in a piece titled, “Doctors from banned countries serve millions of Americans, analysis finds”
Immigrant doctors from the six Muslim-majority countries included in President Trump’s revised travel ban play a critical role in caring for Americans, providing more than 14 million patient visits each year, according to an analysis by a team of graduate students in economics at Harvard University and MIT. The economists mapped where the doctors work and found the highest concentration often in the Rust Belt and rural areas — the same regions that voted heavily for Trump. The map can be found at www.immigrantdoctors.org.
Children Targeted by Gangs
Other immigrants that the Trump Administration wants out of America: the New York Times highlights the story of two young sisters in El Salvador, hiding from gangs who killed their grandparents, waiting for the chance to travel safely to freedom in America:
Veronica picked up some modeling clay, molded it into little human figures with her hands — and then dug holes into the sculpture’s face. ‘Look,’ said Veronica, 9, showing off the creation to her aunt. ‘That’s how Mamá ended up.’
For more than a year, Veronica and her sister have been in hiding here in El Salvador, hoping to receive refugee status in the United States. The two girls were doing homework at their dining room table when masked men burst in and gunned down their grandparents — the community’s only two health workers — on rumors that the couple had been tipping off the police about gangs in the neighborhood. Like many thousands of others, Veronica and her sister applied for sanctuary in the United States under a special Obama administration effort to grapple with the violence that has gutted Central America and sent waves of its people on a desperate march toward the American border.
But on Monday, the Trump administration announced a four-month suspension on all refugee admissions to the United States so security procedures can be improved and, perhaps most significantly, cut the number of total refugees allowed into the country by more than half … And those seats are mostly taken already.
…Officials and immigrant advocates in Central America fear that as the Trump administration cites the danger of admitting potential terrorists cloaked as refugees from nations like Syria, it is disregarding the tens of thousands of people here who are being terrorized by street gangs that actually originated in the United States.
Mississippi Dreamer Daniela Vargas, Who Exercised Her First Amendment Rights
Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old Dreamer from Mississippi who came to America at the age of 7, was arrested and detained last week after speaking to the media about her experience hiding in a closet as ICE raided her house and detained her father and her brother.
Dany was a DACA-recipient, but her status expired last November when she was unable to pay the renewal fee. According to her lawyer, Abby Petterson, ICE will deport Dany without a court hearing, because she came to the United States through a visa waiver program. Under the program, immigrants have no right to contest their removal, except under an asylum plea. As the Los Angeles Times writes, Daniela’s case is disturbing for many reasons, including the fact that ICE appeared to target Daniela in punitive fashion after she spoke out at a press conference:
Attorneys for a young ‘Dreamer’ facing deportation claim in a federal petition that immigration officers violated her right to freedom of speech, arguing she was targeted by authorities because she spoke out at a news conference about her hopes for immigration reform and the effect of enforcement raids on her family.
…‘She was targeted for speaking out against the ICE enforcement actions in the Jackson area and for going public with her story,’ said Michelle Lapointe, a senior staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. ‘We want to send a message to ICE that they cannot behave in this manner that targets people for exercising their 1st Amendment rights.’
…Growing up in Morton, a small city 35 miles east of Jackson, Miss., Vargas graduated high school in 2013 with honors, ranking ninth in her class with a 3.77 grade point average. After attending the University of Southern Mississippi, she recently took on a full-time job as a manager of a small store because she could not afford tuition.
…Last week, ICE issued a public statement indicating that Vargas’ case would be heard before an immigration judge. However, federal officials have served Vargas paperwork noting they plan to deport her to Argentina without a court hearing, because she allegedly entered the U.S. under a “Visa Waiver Program” and waived her right to contest removal.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) have filed a habeas petition on her behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Alexandria Division.
Schools and Educators Grappling with Disturbing New Realities
After dealing with a wave of bullying and anti-immigrant rhetoric post-election, new New York Times story, “Educators Prepare for Immigration Agents at the Schoolhouse,” captures that schools – from administrators to teachers to students – are now confronting the day-to-day fears and realities of mass deportation:
In January, New York City’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, sent a letter home to students’ families, reassuring them that the city was not keeping records of their immigration status and that immigration agents would not be roaming schools unfettered. But that has not kept the questions from coming, said Maite Junco, a senior adviser at the city’s Education Department.
…Across the region — and the country — education officials are facing a similar flood of questions from principals and frantic parents, especially in districts with large immigrant populations, some of whom are undocumented. In response, states have distributed letters to superintendents about asking for warrants and subpoenas from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Reminders have circulated that schools are never to ask families about their immigration status when they enroll their children. And districts have circulated memos about what to do if federal immigration officers show up at the schoolhouse door.
…’If you’re sitting there in math class wondering if someone is going to burst through the door and pick you up, you’re not going to be learning math well,’ said William Clark, chief operating officer of the New Haven Board of Education in Connecticut. ‘The kids should not be worried about this. They’re here to learn.’