Instead of Focusing on Public Safety Priorities, US Government is Deporting Long-Term U.S. Residents with American Children
Cleveland OH – As we have seen throughout the year and throughout the country, the Trump Administration is deporting anyone and everyone they come across – not just those who represent a public safety threat.
The abrupt change – which is having a traumatic effect on American children and families – occurred when the new Administration stopped prioritizing deportations based upon risk, in a series of early 2017 memos. This was one of the first actions taken on any policy by the new Administration. As Cleveland-based immigration David Leopold wrote at the time: “Trump’s immigration order is a blueprint for mass deportation.”
This policy change is the reason why Fabiola Hernandez may have been deported today. The Norwalk mom of three U.S. citizens has been held in Geauga County Jail since last week, when she dutifully appeared for her annual check-in at the Cleveland ICE office. Instead of a routine meeting she – like so many others before her, including Maribel Trujilloof Cincinnati; Betty Casillas of Painesville; Jesus Lara of Willard; Pedro Hernandez of Elyria; Edith Espinal of Columbus; Leonor Garcia of Akron; and Fatiha Elgharib of Dayton – was told that her time with her children had come to an end.
The government agents did not care that she is the mother to three young children – all U.S. citizens – including a daughter with cerebral palsy. They did not care that she has lived in the U.S. for over a decade and has a record of contribution. They did not care that she had routinely received stays of deportation in the past.
Instead, they put her in a county jail, on the fast-track for deportation. Fabiola’s children didn’t even get to hug her goodbye. As Michael Sangiacomo writes for The Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Immigration officials Monday told [Fabiola] she would be deported this morning, but would not say where she was going.
Hernandez is a small woman, so short that the camera only showed half her face on the video monitor at the Geauga County Jail during an interview Sunday night, but her fear was apparent.
Talking on the phone, she asks her father, Rigorberto, about her children, twins Yasmin and Yoselin, 6, and Lucia, 4. He said they are fine. She is comforted that the children will stay with her parents, but fears that Yasmin’s medical needs will be too much for them to handle. Her husband, the children’s father, will help. But confined to a cell awaiting a one-way plane trip to Mexico, worrying is all she can do.
She said it would be impossible to take her American-born children with her to Mexico, because of Yamin’s extreme medical needs.
Said Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio:
The decision to stop prioritizing who gets deported is having a profound and traumatic impact on so many American families. How many Ohio children need to have their parents taken away from them before we get outraged and tell this Administration to stop using our tax dollars this way? The government should be focused on safety threats, not moms and dads who are contributing to society.
As Dean DeChairo of Roll Call explores in a new must-read story, the deportation policy change is being seen and felt all across the United States:
The recent arrest and detention of an undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy is the clearest evidence yet that President Donald Trump isn’t focused solely on “bad hombres,” immigrant advocates say.
Arrests of undocumented criminals are up under Trump, a testament to his promise to crack down on dangerous immigrants. But arrests of undocumented people without any convictions have also skyrocketed, raising questions about how the administration is using what it says are limited resources to keep the country safe.
Prosecutorial discretion has long been a key component of the government’s enforcement strategy. All three immigration agencies — CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — are authorized to make case-by-case determinations when they encounter undocumented people, including whether to arrest them and place them in deportation proceedings.
Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy exercised discretion when they allowed certain undocumented Cubans to remain in the United States after the 1958 revolution on the island. In 1990, President George Bush authorized deportation deferrals for undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens. And PresidentBarack Obama limited enforcement to violent criminals and recent border-crossers in 2014 after being tagged the “deporter in chief” by Janet Murguía, president of the group that was then known as the National Council of La Raza.
Trump upended his predecessor’s immigration enforcement priorities quickly after taking office. In February, then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly issued a memorandum declaring that DHS would “no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
“Prosecutorial discretion shall not be exercised in a manner that exempts or excludes a specified class or category of aliens from enforcement of the immigration laws,” the memo states.
The directive all but wipes out the role of discretion, activists say.
Choosing not to make an arrest isn’t the only form of discretion that immigration officers may use. For years, ICE has held off removing undocumented immigrants who aren’t considered a threat to public safety and, in some cases, who have U.S. citizen children or spouses — even if a judge has issued a final order of removal.
Under Trump, that’s changing.
“What ICE has done in many of these cases is revoke those stay of removals and place them in deportation proceedings,” said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
One such case involved Carlos Humberto Cardona, an undocumented father who assisted in relief efforts at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. Cardona, who was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense in 1990, had periodically checked in with ICE officers in recent years until he was arrested over the summer.
The Justice Department, which prosecutes deportation cases against immigrants arrested by ICE, is also scaling back its use of discretion by pressuring immigration judges to decide cases more quickly and to not delay cases previously considered low-priority.
Immigration laws allow judges to grant numerous delays in immigrants’ court proceedings at the request of their lawyers, but the number of continuances had increased significantly — by 23 percent from fiscal 2006 through 2015, according to the Government Accountability Office.
But without a rewrite of the February policy memo allowing for the arrest of any undocumented immigrant, advocates worry that Trump’s crackdown on non-criminals will ultimately split up families and render the role of discretion in immigration enforcement a thing of the past.
“Without recognizing the humanitarian end of discretion, you end up with a pretty troubling policy,” Wadhia said.