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Key Observers: The Trump Administration’s All-Out Assault on Immigrants and Refugees Reaches New Stages of Cruelty

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Below, we present a series of assessments from leading experts highlighting elements of how the Trump Administration is going for broke in its efforts to deport immigrants, separate families, and turn its back on basic decency and core American values:

Tom Jawetz Univision op-ed, “The Sessions Trap on Immigration

Jawetz, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, explains how several recent policy announcements by Attorney General Jeff Sessions are “all part of a larger plan to build a mass deportation machine.” Jawetz writes:

“Over the past month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has laid the perfect trap to speed up the deportation of immigrants in detention … The Sessions Trap eliminates the most basic elements of fairness, and involves three main parts: First, deny unrepresented immigrants in detention access to the most basic legal information they might need to passably represent themselves; second, pressure immigration judges to decide cases as quickly as possible by tying the judges’ performance evaluations to speed rather than quality; and third, encourage immigration judges to deny applications for relief without even holding an evidentiary hearing … The Sessions Trap is a coordinated effort to make it easier to deport people without due process.”

Julia Preston in Politico, “Trump Administration Wants to Shut Door on Abused Women

Longtime immigration expert and journalist Julia Preston describes how Jeff Sessions wants to remove domestic abuse as a legal justification for seeking asylum.Preston writes:

“Women in an exodus from Central America since 2014 have succeeded in winning asylum or other protections in the United States as victims of a pandemic of domestic abuse in that region. Because of recent cases that established fear of domestic violence as a legitimate basis for asylum, those claims often found more solid legal grounding in U.S. immigration court than claims of people who said they were escaping from killer gangs … Now the Trump administration, determined to stop the stream of people to the border from Central America, is moving to curtail or close the legal avenues to protection for abused women like L.C. While the #MeToo movement has swept the country, bringing new legitimacy to women’s stories and consequences for men who abused, on immigration President Donald Trump is going the other way.”

Esther Yu Hsi Lee in ThinkProgress: “Federal Agent Detains Immigrant Mom Who Accompanied Her Son to Surgery

Yesterday, we highlighted the disturbing case of Silvia Macuixele, the Texas mom who was detained after traveling through a Border Patrol checkpoint while accompanying her 4-year old son to the hospital for his emergency surgery. While Macuixele has been released, thanks in large part due to the work of Workers Defense Action Fund, the story is a disturbing reminder of what we have witnessed across the country – immigration enforcement targeting parents who are seeking care and providing essential support for their children. In the new ThinkProgress piece, Esther Yu Hsi Lee quotes Dr. Julie M. Linton, MD, co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Immigrant Child Health Special Interest Group and pediatrician in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who says:

“The current climate has led to excessive fear and uncertainty that is really concerning regarding the health and well-being of children … When parents are scared, children are scared… the threat of separation from a parent really places children in a situation where we are disrupting the most essential and important part of their development. We as Americans, one of our greatest values is the value of the family and we’re threatening that. As a pediatrician and a mother, I find it hard to reconcile how we could ever justify the potential separation of a child from a loving parent.”

David Miliband op-ed in Washington Post, “On Refugees, the Trump Administration is Competent and Malevolent

Miliband, the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, offers a disturbing assessment of the Trump Administration’s policies towards refugees in the new Post op-ed, writing:

“At a time of widespread need, the United States is in headlong retreat from the principles and practices that for so long has made it a global beacon. It is no exaggeration to say that if current trends continue, the U.S. government will have no refugee resettlement program at the end of this administration. In other policy domains, scholars have asked whether the Trump administration is malevolent or incompetent. In the case of refugees the answer is clear: There is animus towards this program and that is being translated into action in a highly organized and efficient manner. It is the worst of all worlds.”

The latest installment of the Philadelphia Inquirer and ProPublica joint investigation on ICE practices in the region and across country: “No Sanctuary: Crush of Cases, Less Scrutiny

Part three of the multi-part and deeply-reported joint investigation published by the Philadelphia Inquirer and ProPublica details how the deportation machinery, involving DHS enforcement agencies such as ICE and some state and local law enforcement enablers, also includes a “secretive court system with a huge backlog of immigration cases” that simultaneously has “little accountability.” Parts one and two are here, and we excerpt part three below, which is available in full here:

“At a time when every undocumented immigrant is a potential target and few are awarded lenience, the inequities in the immigration justice system are exacerbated. Even if undocumented immigrants have lawyers, they face challenges unique to the immigration courts, where the backlog reached an all-time high of 684,583 cases by March 1. The courts operate with what their own spokeswoman calls “an outdated paper filing system,” and provide no public access to charging documents, evidence, or routine judicial decisions. Most hearings are open, but some immigration courts, like the one in York, sit inside prisons or detention centers, with courtrooms behind two layers of locked and guarded doors … Immigrants detained at York who want to fight their arrests on constitutional grounds face considerable disincentives.”