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Even Citizens and Doctors Caught Up in ICE Enforcement
While we had originally hoped that DHS Secretary General John Kelly would be a voice of reason on immigration in the Trump administration to check the nativism of the Steve Bannon/Jeff Sessions/Stephen Miller trio, it is increasingly clear that DHS, under his leadership, is presiding over cruel and self-defeating immigration enforcement efforts. As a recent editorial in the New York Times characterized, Secretary Kelly has transformed from a nominee with a “reasonable border and immigration policy” to a blind enforcer of Trump’s mass deportation blueprint.
Stories from across the country continue to show that DHS agencies ICE and Border Patrol are not targeting so-called “bad hombres,” they are going after whomever they please, however they please. As the below examples remind us, the mass deportation focus and larger immigration enforcement excesses are having real consequences for Americans.
Betsy Woodruff writes in Daily Beast about a new lawsuit filed against ICE by a U.S. citizen who was recently held in immigration detention for nearly three weeks and not allowed to see a judge, despite telling ICE that he is an American citizen:
A U.S. citizen who ICE detained for weeks is suing the agency, alleging it violated his Constitutional rights. The lawsuit holds that Rony Chavez Aguilar was held in ICE custody for nearly three weeks without being able to see a judge, and without knowing why he was being detained.
…’He said, ‘Hey, I’m a citizen!’’ said Charles Roth, who is representing Aguilar. ‘And basically they said, ‘Tell it to the judge.’’ Then they didn’t let him see one. Roth, who is also the litigation director for the National Immigrant Justice Center, said many other immigrants find themselves in the same situation as Aguilar—detained for days or weeks without knowing what charges they face and without getting to defend themselves before a judge—and that he hopes a judge will let those people join Aguilar in a class action suit. If Aguilar is successful, it could present a significant challenge for Trump’s mass deportation efforts.
…the suit highlights one of the biggest challenges facing America’s immigration system: the massive backlog in immigration court that makes some immigrants wait months before they can see a judge. It also highlights another ongoing challenge for ICE: accidentally arresting U.S. citizens. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Clearinghouse found that from 2008 to 2012, the agency asked local jails to detain 834 U.S. citizens so they could move to deport them. As Trump’s efforts to speed up deportations continue, it’s likely more American citizens like Aguilar will be caught in the dragnet.
In the Houston Chronicle, Lomi Kriel writes about how the Trump Administration nearly deported two Houston neurologists to their native India due to a paperwork snafu – despite potentially grave consequences to the doctors’ patients:
Two prominent Houston doctors facing removal by immigration officials to their native India have been granted a temporary, 90-day reprieve while they try to sort the paper-work that will allow them to continue living and working legally in the United States. The married couple are both neurologists and faced removal Thursday after immigration officials refused at the last minute to extend their temporary permission to stay in the U.S., potentially jeopardizing the care of dozens of patients who have specialized surgeries scheduled with the two doctors in coming weeks. It’s the latest example of the government taking an unusually hard line on immigration and declining to consider cases on an individual basis.
…The problem began last year when for some reason their travel document was issued for only one year, unlike the typical period of two years like their employment authorization. Further confusing the issue was that Customs and Border Protection officials stamped their travel document saying that it expired in June this year, when in fact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services noted that their document actually expired in June 2016. The surgeons did not notice the discrepancy. They had an unusually busy year and were not planning international travel.
Then last October, Satija’s brother called from Delhi and said that their father was extremely ill and had been admitted to intensive care. The family needed to go right away. They immediately bought plane tickets and packed their bags. Upon returning to the United States about a week later, a Customs and Border Protection official at the airport noted the discrepancy on their travel document and that in fact it had already expired four months previously. ‘The officer looked at it and said it’s a common mistake, that it was no big deal,’ Satija said.
…Later when they again checked in with Customs and Border Protection officials, they were told the agency now had a new policy and was no longer able to extend their temporary permission to stay. ‘ Somebody up there has decided you have to leave the country in the next 24 hours,’ the agent told the couple as he gave them one more day to sort out their affairs.’
A story in The Hill, “U.S. Travel Industry Fears Trump Slump,” highlights the growing fears of the travel industry that Trump’s stance towards immigrants and foreigners could have a devastating effect on the travel industry and the U.S. economy in general:
Michael McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), said Trump’s policy moves are creating challenges at a time when people have grown accustomed to a global economy. ‘This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,’ McCormick said. ‘This combined set of initiatives … have created a strong sense of uncertainty. It creates doubts about the safety and security of traveling.’
Even small decreases in tourism to the U.S. could hamper economic growth and cause job losses. Dow said a 5 percent drop in tourism would cost the U.S. economy $12 billion to $15 billion and between 500,000 and 1 million jobs. McCormick said a 1 percent shift in business travel costs could lead to the loss of 71,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in economic growth, $3 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in tax collections.
…In the political big picture, Trump and his administration are in trouble. They are inept, corrupt and mired in a very serious scandal. The president’s approval ratings have already hit historic lows. But the executive branch’s law enforcement agencies are carrying out his immigration agenda as if all of the other stuff were taking place in another country. In cities and towns across America, Donald Trump’s promise to ‘get ’em out and get ’em out quickly’ is being kept. It’s important that people don’t fool themselves into believing that Trump is a paper tiger who can’t do any serious harm. He’s already doing it.