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On Immigration, Trump Administration Hardliners Are Going for Broke

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Sessions, Bannon and Miller Seek to Overhaul Immigration and Remake America

This week, the Trump Administration’s war on immigrants shifted into overdrive. Among the disturbing developments:

  • DACA under threat: The popular and successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is facing an existential threat.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with other Republican officials, is demanding that Trump kill off DACA by September 5thor else. If this doesn’t force Trump’s hand, Paxton says he’ll bring the issue before the notoriously anti-immigrant judge Andrew Hanen, the hand-picked judge that blocked DAPA. Paxton seems to have a willing ally in U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an unconstructed opponent of DACA. Sessions would only have to refuse to contest a Paxton lawsuit to effectively end DACA. Evidently, this Paxton-Sessions maneuver is not sitting well with the President. On Air Force One this week, Trump called DACA a “decision that I make.”If that is really the case, the time has come for President Trump to stand up to Paxton and Sessions, and stand with the American people to protect 800,000 Dreamers whose futures are hanging in the balance.
  • Stephen Miller and GOP hardliners gearing up to slash legal immigration: This week, Politico reported that White House advisor and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller is working with restrictionist Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue to advance a plan to cut legal immigration levels in half – by some 500,000 immigrants per year. Under the ruse of “increasing the skill levels” of legal immigrants, the bill would cut family-based legal immigration, diversity visas and refugee resettlement that primarily benefits Asian-American and Latino families in America as well as Africans and Muslims who come with diversity visas or as refugees. Let’s not kid ourselves. The move has little to do with skill levels, and more to do with altering the racial and ethnic composition of America. As Senator Cotton, in a Huffington Post piece entitled, “GOP Bill To Curb Legal Immigration Disproportionately Hits Nonwhite Americans,” said in support of his bill, “Once you get here, you have a green card and you can open up immigration not just to your immediate family, but your extended family, your village, your clan, your tribe.”
  • On Capitol Hill, House DHS Appropriations process advancing Trump Administration unnecessary hardline immigration requests: So far, House Republicans are going along with President Trump’s request for a massive border wall, more private detention beds and an expansion of the DHS deportation force. As approved by the DHS Appropriation Subcommittee, the DHS budget would reach a whopping $23.5 billion next year – an amount that is higher than all the other federal law enforcement functions combined. Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reported today, Trump’s budget request seeks to dramatically cut counterterrorism programs.
  • TPS on the hit list: During this week’s meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), DHS Secretary John Kelly again expressed skepticism about TPS — a form of relief extended to nationals of countries unable to handle their return because of civil strife, natural disasters and instability. Currently, 350,000 immigrants from 10 countries have TPS. Since DHS Secretary Kelly has repeatedly and publicly expressed enormous skepticism about TPS, and since he is surrounded at DHS by acolytes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions, it seems increasingly clear that TPS is on the DHS hit list. Similar to killing DACA, ending TPS would plunge hundreds of thousands of settled immigrants into crisis and expose them to deportation.
  • Unshackled deportation agents target those with strong equities: The recently unearthed February memo from ICE, stating that “effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties,” confirms what we see across America on a daily basis. Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Kelly continues to falsely assert that he does not have discretionary powers to intervene in individual deportation cases. This combination — ramped-up indiscriminate enforcement and Kelly’s inaccurate “my hands are tied” rap – means that people like Ohio father Jesus Lara, a hardworking father of four U.S. citizen children whose only violation was driving without a license, remain the focus of enforcement.
  • Border Patrol turning away asylum applicants at the border: The Trump Administration has reportedly been turning away asylum applicants, including women and children fleeing Central American violence, at the border. This is a violation of domestic and international law, and advocates this week filed a lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection over the practice. One of the cases cited: a woman and daughter from Honduras who had been repeatedly raped by MS-13 were denied the chance to apply for asylum.
  • Support for Texas’ SB 4 law: In June, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest to support Texas’ radical SB4 law in court against advocates seeking an injunction. If SB4 goes into effect, it would lead to widespread racial profiling against those who look or sound “foreign” – meaning the nearly 50% of the state that is comprised of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Africans and Middle Easterners – and require police to focus on arresting and deporting immigrants rather than building trust and taking criminals off the streets.
  • Jeff Sessions willfully misrepresents study on immigrants and crime: UC Riverside Professors Loren Collingwood and Benjamin Gonzalez-O’Brien write in a Washington Post op-ed titled, “Jeff Sessions used our research to claim that sanctuary cities have more crime. He’s wrong,”: “On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech in Las Vegas on sanctuary cities and local law enforcement. He announced, “According to a recent study from the University of California, Riverside, cities with these policies have more violent crime on average than those that don’t.” … The attorney general’s summation of our study, however, is not true. In fact, our study suggests a different conclusion: Municipalities that chose to designate themselves as sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants experience crime rates no higher than they otherwise would. We state this clearly throughout our study.”

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

The Trump Administration’s hardliners – Bannon, Miller, and Sessions – are in charge and going for broke. They want to kick out and keep out immigrants and refugees in what is shaping up as a naked attempt to remake the racial and ethnic composition of America.

Now is the time for President Trump to stand with the American people and reject the maneuver by the hardliners to force his hand and end DACA. Now is the time for DHS Secretary Kelly and Republican Members of Congress to end their quiet complicity in response to the radicalism of the hardliners. Now is the time for Democrats to use every ounce of leverage to protect Dreamers, save TPS, defund the deportation machinery and demand the use of lawful discretion in immigration enforcement. And now is the time for all of us to stand up for an America that welcomes newcomers in a way that strengthens our nation. That very idea is under siege.