What’s Happening

The Basics

With the signing of his executive action,  Trump issued an Executive Order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” on January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump began building up his Deportation Force and declaring Open Season on immigrants and refugees.

Trump is making sweeping, foundational changes to domestic and international policy by executive edict, acting more like a monarch than a President.  His radical policy vision is unprecedented, dangerous, and contrary to our identity as a nation and our core values as Americans. He is taking a sledgehammer to the Statue of Liberty.

Trump’s Executive Order goes after:

  • People convicted of any criminal offense, regardless of what the offense was, when it occurred, or the circumstances of the conviction;
  • People who haven’t even been convicted of a crime, but have been charged with one;
  • People who have simply broken a law, with no charges or convictions resulting;
  • People with final administrative deportation orders, no matter how long ago they received the order and their positive ties and contributions; and
  • Anyone else Trump’s Deportation Force wants to prioritize.

Why this is a problem

Welcoming immigrants who come to America to make a better life for their families is a defining feature of America’s past, present, and future. Rescuing refugees fleeing persecution and violence is fundamental to American identity, as we are a nation founded by refugees seeking religious freedom.

Welcoming people of all faiths to visit, study or do business here is who we are and how we have built an open, dynamic, prosperous, and free America.

Trump and the Republicans’ approach won’t work and will have negative consequences. Their policies will hurt public safety and national security while isolating us in the world. Treating all members of one faith as the enemy will undermine, not help, our national security.  It will also send a message to vigilantes here in the United States that it’s OK to discriminate against other Americans because of the way they look, talk, or pray.  Quite frankly, these policies are dangerous at home and dangerous abroad.

Trump is Doing serious damage to America’s reputation as a beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution will not help us win the battle of ideas in the world.

The Deportations Are In The Details

As the media focuses on who will pay for President Trump’s border wall, former AILA President and immigration lawyer David Leopold breaks down the breadth of devastation Trump’s Executive Orders on immigration will cause in a new Medium piece.

As Leopold explains, the implications of Trump’s actions are “simply breathtaking.” In short, Trump’s Executive Order is not just a rewriting of the Jeh Johnson deportation priorities — it’s throwing any form of prioritization out the window. It is a blueprint for mass deportation.

Once again, traffic violations will become deportable offenses and there isn’t any limit to how long ago the conviction occurred or what the circumstances were. For example, a 58 year old immigrant could be a Deportation Force priority if he was convicted of a possessing a marijuana cigarette — a minor misdemeanor — 30 years ago.

Trump’s executive order targets immigrants who’ve been charged, but not convicted, of any crime and threatens millions of immigrants — including Dreamers — who have lived in this country for decades, just because they happen to have an old deportation order.

Trump also tells his Deportation Force to go after people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime but have simply been charged with an offense. Aside from the patently unjust practice of penalizing someone based on unproven allegations, this clause pulls an end around the immigration law by giving a police officer the power to transform any immigrant into an enforcement priority just by charging them with an offense.

As Politico’s Danny Vinik observes:

“Prioritizing individuals who have simply been charged with a crime but not yet convicted also gives state and local law enforcement enhanced powers over immigration. An aggressive local police department could arrest undocumented immigrants, even if they don’t have enough evidence to convict them in court. Before even having their case heard, they would immediately become a priority for deportation.”

Trump’s Executive Order targets immigrants who haven’t even been charged or convicted of a crime. What’s more, an immigrant doesn’t actually have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to receive priority deportation treatment. The plan’s legalese includes immigrants who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

It could give Trump’s Deportation Force the authority to target millions of immigrants who’ve never been charged with a crime, but may have entered the country without inspection, worked without authorization, or driven a car. It gives DHS and ICE unfettered power, melding Big Brother and the Thought Police in a chilling example of government control.

What Can We Do About It?

We Won’t Stop Fighting

We will not turn our backs on our people. We must protect the rights of each and every one of our residents, no matter their race, creed, color, or country of origin. We will act with hope, not fear, with protection, not aggression.

Trump ran as the most anti-immigrant candidate in modern American history, and he’s exporting that bigotry into the White House with nativists like Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller firmly in command.  Together, they seem intent on turning America’s back on those who come here for freedom and opportunity, with support from Republicans in Congress.

  1. We will work to make sure every person in our community knows their rights.
  2. We will work to find ways to improve access to legal representation.
  3. We will support aggressive litigation strategies whenever possible.
  4. We will make sure that our community gets organized and registered to vote.

The American People Are With Us

Donald Trump begins his term as the most unpopular incoming President in modern American history. His favorability ratings are at 40% or less. Meanwhile, strong majorities of Americans favor maintaining the DACA program for young immigrants, legalizing undocumented immigrants in America, and accepting refugees as long as the current vetting procedures remain strong. A strong majority of Americans believe immigrants strengthen the country. Americans oppose mass deportation and building a wall.  They think the idea of banning or “registering” Muslims is contrary to our values.

Americans support immigrants and refugees and value freedom of religion.  They support pro-immigrant, pro-refugee policies more than they support Trump. His agenda seems calculated to pander to his nativist base, at great cost to our nation’s fundamental values.

America Supports Immigration Reforms With A Pathway to Citizenship

Instead of building walls, slamming the door on refugees, attacking smart public safety strategies, and threatening to send deportation agents to our workplaces, schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods, we need common sense reforms that address immigration efficiently, effectively and compassionately.  Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress and the White House have proven incapable or unwilling to tackle this.  But making broad and sweeping changes like these through executive edict is just going to make the situation worse.

The right approach to immigration remains the policy supported by most Americans: pass a law that creates a process for immigrants without papers to come forward, go through background checks, and apply for their green cards.  Doing this would require bipartisanship in Congress, but unfortunately the Republicans in charge of the agenda are afraid to cross their nativist base. There are incremental pro-immigrant measures to be taken, though, at all levels of government, and our movement will continue to press forward on those actions.

What Are Others Saying?

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund

“President Trump’s immigration executive orders of this week create a blueprint for the mass deportation, build up his Deportation Force, stop Syrian and other refugees from coming to America and ban tens of millions of Muslims from coming to America. All this, despite rhetorical flourishes and assurances he was simply building a wall, focusing on criminals and putting “extreme vetting” into place. To many in the political class, Trump is just being a tougher version of Obama. To policy experts, Trump just laid out a plan to put just about all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation and to ban millions of Muslims.

Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller must be doing high-fives.

It’s now seems pretty clear to us that Trump’s team has had a strategy dating back to last summer. Beginning when Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway came on board, Trump made a number of moves on immigration policy. Here is our take on the strategy, from then until now:

  • Have Trump talk about border security (the wall), prioritizing criminals and extreme vetting to get away from talk of mass deportation and the Muslim ban and to get the political class to buy the idea that Trump was “softening” his positions.
  • Give a speech in Phoenix in late August that was carefully written to both con the political class about “the softening” while doubling down with his nativist base on actual policy
  • Keep the fiction alive that Trump was just a tougher version of Obama until in the White House and then lower the boom with a series of executive orders that initiate the most hard-edged policies but still packaged in normalizing rhetoric
  • Continue to fool the political class by waving the shiny object of a stupid border wall (will Mexico pay or not, ask the pundits?), pretend that the prioritization in the executive orders still mean criminals first (when in fact the orders eviscerate any and all priorities), build up his Deportation Force by tripling the number of ICE agents, and then, under the guise of “extreme vetting,” end the Syrian refugee program, suspend and then shrink the refugee program (while shifting its focus to Christians), and ban many Muslim visitors without ever once using the word “Muslim.”

Hardliners get what they want – open season on immigrants through a blueprint for mass deportation and a ban on most Muslims – and the political class doesn’t get it.

As we said, Mr. Sessions, Mr. Bannon, Ms. Conway and Mr. Miller must be doing high-fives. Some get it: see some excerpts below. We hope as Trump and team continue their assault on a defining aspect of American history and identity, others will, too.

Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund

“This week Trump begins his planned assault on immigrants, refugees, and religious freedom.  He’ll take steps to launch his mass deportation force, wall off our country both literally and figuratively, turn our backs on refugees fleeing persecution and violence, and ban many Muslims from legal entry into the United States.

Trump is making radical, foundational changes to domestic and international policy by executive edict, acting more like a monarch than a President.  His plans are pulled directly from the nativists’ wish lists, making it clear that the bigotry and racism that drove his campaign are alive and well in his Administration.

By tripling the number of ICE agents, Trump is creating the mass deportation force he promised as a candidate, despite assurances made by Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans that there would be no such thing.  There’s no way around it: Trump is declaring open season on immigrants, refugees, Latino families, and other people of color in America.

By walling off the country from refugees and banning many Muslims from entering legally, Trump is not only undermining our values as a nation but sending a hateful message that will have dangerous consequences.  His policies will give fodder to anti-American extremists across the globe and encourage vigilantes at home to harm their neighbors.

This is not America.  This is now who we are and what we stand for.  We will fight this agenda through every means possible because this country can and must do better.”

David Leopold, immigration attorney and past president of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

“This is basically saying, ‘Go out and find who you can find,’” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who said agents will focus on “low-hanging fruit” to make quotas rather than go after the serious criminals who pose the biggest danger to public safety. “The people who need to be removed and the people who may pose a national security threat — there’s less resources to go after them. This is a disaster because it creates a much more dangerous situation. It’s enforcement chaos.”

John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE, in Politico

“That’s going to sweep up a lot of families, a lot of folks who have children, a lot of folks who have been here a long time.”

Dara Lind of Vox

“Instead of focusing on deporting convicted criminals, the executive order tells ICE agents to focus on immigrants who’ve been convicted, charged, or “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” Those “offenses” include immigration crimes (illegal entry and reentry are both criminal offenses) and things that are part and parcel of living in the US as an unauthorized immigrant, like driving without a license. (Indeed, the order prioritizes people who have engaged in “fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter,” which could apply to anyone who applies for a job and pays taxes under a fake Social Security number.) Furthermore, the executive order tells immigration agents to prioritize anyone they feel is a “risk to public safety or national security” even if they haven’t done any of those things — which is to say, anyone immigration agents want to deport. And ICE will have more resources to carry this out. The executive order triples the number of agents in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations office. Those agents will be able to resume use of the tool that made it easiest for them to pick up immigrants involved in the criminal justice system. Trump is resurrecting the Obama-era Secure Communities program, which automatically checked immigration databases to identify people checked into local jails, then allowed ICE agents to ask local officials to hand over any immigrant they wanted to deport.”

Benjy Sarlin in NBC News

“These immigrants and their families no longer can count on that protection. Trump’s executive order targets criminals as its top priority, but the language is so broad that it could include almost anyone in the country without legal status.”

Politico’s Danny Vinik

“Under the new orders undocumented immigrants are considered a priority if they have been convicted of any crime; have been charged with a crime, even if it has not been resolved; “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense”; have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation before a government agency; “have abused” public benefits; have received a final order to leave the country but haven’t done so; or are judged by an immigration officer “pose a risk to public safety and national security.” These could net hundreds of thousands of people without any convictions, experts said—specifically due to the prioritization of people who have received a final order to leave the country but have not done so.”