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While President Trump has already flip-flopped on an array of campaign promises, immigration enforcement is proceeding in rigid accordance with Trump’s nativist campaign pledge. As we reach the first 100 days on immigration benchmark, it is clear that the Trump Administration has laid the groundwork to implement a mass deportation plan that targets all 11 million undocumented immigrants, not just the “bad hombres.”
Articulated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DHS Secretary John Kelly, and advisors Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, and enabled by the quiet complicity of Capitol Hill Republicans, Trump’s immigration radicalism is unfolding with devastating consequences for both immigrants and all Americans. Hindering rather than helping public safety, ripping apart stable American families, and wreaking economic havoc, Trump’s mass deportation agenda undermines our values as a nation of immigrants and a beacon of hope and inspiration for millions around the world.
President Donald Trump is following through on one of candidate Donald Trump’s consistent pledges — the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.
In his first 100 days on immigration, President Donald Trump is following through on one of candidate Donald Trump’s consistent pledges — the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump made explicit his support for mass deportation:
Trump has never disavowed or backtracked from the above support for mass deportation in his first 100 days on immigration, despite contrived media moments like his false “softening” ahead of his dark immigration speech in Phoenix during the campaign or the legalization “misdirection play” the White House orchestrated in the hours before Trump’s first joint speech to Congress.
The Trump immigration enforcement vision is to go after anyone and everyone, not just the “bad hombres” that the Trump Administration emphasizes rhetorically.
Despite continued rhetorical emphasis that he is going after the “bad hombres”, Trump in his first 100 days on immigration has never backed away from his explicit campaign pledge of mass deportation for all undocumented immigrants, as stories such as those of Maribel Trujillo-Diaz and Roberto Beristain demonstrate.
Trujillo-Diaz, an Ohio mom of four U.S. citizen children, was recently deported despite no criminal record, a real risk of harm if returned to Mexico, the attempted intervention of both Republican and Democratic elected officials on her behalf, and a tremendous outpouring of support from the Catholic Church and interfaith leaders. Beristain, the husband of an American citizen and father to three U.S. citizen children, also was recently deported back to Mexico after nearly two decades as a community pillar in an Indiana town. Helen Beristain, Roberto’s wife, told Indiana Public Media that she voted for Donald Trump, believing that he would not deport “good people” such as her husband.
Despite the continued discussion of focusing on “bad hombres,” as even Helen Beristain believed, a series of Trump Administration policy memos and comments from DHS officials during the first 100 days on immigration make explicit the mass deportation vision and make clear that the Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement vision is to go after anyone and everyone they can:
Trump’s interior enforcement executive order. The details in Trump’s executive order on interior enforcement, including the creation of a Deportation Force, made clear that just about all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America at risk of deportation. Even Breitbart agreed, noting that the Trump immigration executive orders are “much broader than expected,” and stating that the key deportation measures are “hidden in the details.” Former American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) President David Leopold explained that “Trump’s plan is a blueprint to implement his campaign promises of mass deportation, and it puts in place the Deportation Force to carry out his plan.” Less than a week into his presidency, Trump threw away any prioritization standard (common sense measures by the Obama Administration to focus on deporting criminals rather than “low priority” immigrants with families and lives here) and put “parking tickets in the same category as murder.”
DHS immigration enforcement implementation memos. Released in February, these DHS memos admit that they “will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, called the DHS memos “an instruction manual for the coast-to-coast, fast-track deportation of everyone in the United States without papers, no matter how long they’ve been here, how strong their family ties, and how much they contribute.
During January immigration raids across the nation soon after Trump took office, Trump’s Deportation Force went after anyone and everyone they could find, by ICE’s own admission. Raids with this intent continued throughout Trump’s first 100 days on immigration. The largest single category of those rounded up was the “non-criminal” category and fully one-third of those arrested had either no criminal record or minor immigration-related charges. Despite the PR campaign from Trump and DHS about a focus on “bad dudes,” even an unnamed DHS official told the Washington Post “that the term ‘criminal aliens’ includes anyone who had entered the United States illegally or overstayed or violated the terms of a visa.”
DHS Secretary, General John Kelly, appeared on Capitol Hill in early April in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee and said, “The start point is illegal status and then go to the priorities. They can go after an individual, under the law, if they are on the list because they are illegal.” As AP described, Secretary Kelly’s comments “made clear that just about any immigrant in the United State illegally is a priority for immigration enforcement.”
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox stated, “ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removed from the United States.”
The “Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration,” according to an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by David Nakamura of the Washington Post. The DHS memo highlighted how DHS has located 33,000 more detention beds, is attempting to forge new agreements with dozens of new local police departments to assist in immigration enforcement, and, is even contemplating eliminating polygraph and physical fitness tests to facilitate the hiring of new CBP agents.
Despite the details of how the Trump Administration is laying the groundwork and starting to implement mass deportations in his first 100 days on immigration, they continue to insist that they are focused on criminals. For example, when appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in mid-April, DHS Secretary John Kelly claimed that ICE is targeting “criminals, multiple convictions.” He denied that his agency goes after those with no criminal record, stating, “just because you’re in the United States illegally doesn’t necessarily get you targeted. It’s got to be something else. And we’re operating more or less at the other end of the spectrum, and that is criminals, multiple convictions.”
His claim is demonstrably false, as cases such as Maribel’s and Roberto’s demonstrate. As the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti reported, examining ICE data from January through March, “ICE immigration arrests of non criminals double under Trump.”
Targeting formerly “low priority” immigrants at courthouses and during routine interactions with DHS departments is a key feature of the mass deportation agenda, not an anomaly.
In order to fulfill the mass deportation vision, Trump’s DHS is seeking to detain and deport virtually anyone they encounter. Some of the easiest targets to locate seem to be formerly “low priority” immigrants showing up for routine appointments at ICE and other DHS departments, or attending hearings at our nation’s courthouses:
Detaining and deporting immigrants via voluntarily check-ins with ICE: As Jeremy Redmon wrote in a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution story: “ICE has been employing another tactic that has drawn far less attention [than high-profile raids]: Waiting for their targets to come to them … ICE is now tracking roughly 67,000 unauthorized immigrants through the Alternatives to Detention program, which allows them to remain at large under certain conditions, including requirements to wear electronic monitoring bracelets and to show up for regular face-to-face meetings with authorities.” For example, Roberto Beristain was detained and eventually deported after willingly appearing at ICE offices for his annual check-in with the agency, stemming from a 2000 voluntary deportation order. And Maribel Trujillo-Diaz was detained shortly after her annual ICE check-in and eventually deported back to Mexico. Other high profile deportations of long-time U.S. residents in Chicago and Phoenix also stemmed from voluntary check-ins with ICE.
Detaining and deporting immigrants trying to adjust their status at USCIS: In Lawrence, MA, five formerly “low priority” undocumented immigrants attempting to legalize their presence in the U.S. through a visa petition via USCIS were detained due to old deportation orders. As the Washington Post described, “Though the arrests aren’t unprecedented, legal experts say they are indicative of the Trump administration’s broader view on what counts as high priority for deportation … Susan Church, chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said at least four of them were at the USCIS office to apply for green cards and at least two are married to U.S. citizens. According to ICE, two of the individuals have no criminal history; the others have traffic offenses.”
Detaining and deporting immigrants who have been recognized by previous administrations: Repeatedly, the Trump Administration has gone after immigrants who were known to ICE in previous administrations, who were allowed to have work permits and live in relative freedom of fear from deportation as long as they checked in annually. Trump is essentially de-legalizing the few who have found their way to something resembling status. Roberto Beristain and Maribel Trujillo were two of these examples; another is Anabel Barron, who came to the US when she was 16 and has been here for 20 years. She has been checking in with ICE since 2013, has a work permit, and is eligible for a U-Visa — but in March, ICE clapped her with an ankle bracelet and told her she might be deported.
A newfound presence at courthouses around the country: Previously, ICE and other immigration enforcement agents were instructed to stay away from courthouses as well as other “sensitive locations.” In Trump’s first 100 days on immigration, that is changing. DHS spokesperson David Lapan defended enforcement actions against immigrants who are victims in courthouses, saying, “Just because they’re a victim in a certain case does not mean there’s not something in their background that could cause them to be a removable alien. Just because they’re a witness doesn’t mean they might not pose a security threat for other reasons.”
The sweeping nature of the Trump mass deportation plan, including pulling DOJ into immigration enforcement in new ways, spreads fear and chaos and harms public safety.
The actions of the Trump Administration in his first 100 days on immigration — from the newfound presence of ICE agents at courthouses to trying to force local police to act as de facto immigration enforcement agents to targeting formerly “low priority” individuals like Roberto Beristain and Maribel Trujillo — causes widespread fear in immigrant communities and discourages immigrants from reporting crimes and serving as witnesses. Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pulled the Department of Justice into immigration enforcement like never before and, in the process, is distracting DOJ from its core mission.
From schools now dealing with deportation fears to worries about the bottom line of the travel, agriculture, and construction industries, we are now confronting the consequences – and costs – of Trump’s unpopular and un-American policies. As the New York Times recently stated, “If you do back-of-the-envelope calculations, you’re gonna need a big envelope. The [center-right] American Action Forum last year estimated that expelling all unauthorized immigrants, and keeping them out, would cost $400 billion to $600 billion, and reduce the gross domestic product by $1 trillion.”
Perhaps most troubling is the way the pursuit of mass deportation in these first 100 days on immigration even trumps public safety concerns:
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it painfully clear that he is seeking to use the full power of the Department of Justice to go after immigrants. This should come as no surprise. Sessions earned and deserved his reputation as the most anti-immigrant Senator, before becoming an early supporter of candidate Trump.
In April, Sessions traveled to the southwestern border to deliver two speeches that, once again, scapegoated immigrants as criminals and used that portrayal to try and justify sweeping new measures aimed at immigrants. Describing the ramped-up focus on immigration enforcement, Sessions said: “This is a new era …This is the Trump era.” In The Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff wrote that the Sessions speech “officially weaponized the Justice Department to crack down on undocumented immigration.”
Yet the newfound focus on Trump’s first 100 days on immigration comes at a tremendous opportunity cost for the Department of Justice. Reacting to the Sessions speech, Jenny Durkan, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington from 2009 to 2014, said: “Which prosecutors and agents does he want to divert from the growing threats like terrorism, cybercrime, the opioid and heroin trade, organized crime and cartel activity? … The ‘surge’ philosophy always requires taking agents, money and prosecutors from other priorities. In fact, the cost of satisfying Washington will reduce the ability of every U.S. attorney to address the greatest threats in their communities.”
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said: “Every dollar spent on prosecuting an illegal immigrant for illegal reentry is a dollar that could have been spent on prosecuting or investigating a real crime … It’s a shame the government is prioritizing the enforcement of, essentially, labor market regulations over violent and property crimes.”
As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said: “It’s now clear that the Trump Administration’s top priority is not public safety but their blind obsession with arresting and deporting immigrants at any cost. It is ironic that in every public transportation space — subway, airport, train station — the public address system drills us with the mantra, “If you see something, say something.” Well, DHS’s message to immigrants is ‘be fearful’ and ‘if you see something, say nothing.’ This flies in the face of good policing and undermines public safety for all.”
First 100 Days on Immigration: The Bottom Line
As we reach the first 100 days on immigration, it is abundantly clear that the Trump Administration is following through on his radical and divisive mass deportation agenda, laying the groundwork for and starting to implement what would go down as a dark and self-defeating chapter in American history.
No one should be fooled that the Trump Administration is not focused on “bad hombres.” The vilification of immigrants is one of the few areas of consistency in Trump’s political history — from his campaign kick-off speech railing against Mexican “rapists” to his dark RNC and Phoenix speeches in the general election to his Administration’s creation of the VOICE office to publicize crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. It should be no surprise that this radically anti-immigrant politician and president is moving forward during his first 100 days on immigration on this cruel, costly, and unpopular mass deportation strategy.
Our high moral ground as a nation of optimistic, hopeful people is under threat by a fearful view of America and who we are. While Trump’s unfolding mass deportation agenda will go down as a dark chapter in our history books, we are seeing resistance on display as Americans stand up for immigrants and American values. From the widespread airport protests against Trump’s Muslim ban to lawmakers in states such as California pushing for pro-immigrant policies to nationwide campaigns on behalf of immigrants such as Maribel and Roberto, millions of people are standing up for an America that prizes united families and humane policies instead of arbitrary and cruel deportations. Instead of mass deportations, Americans overwhelmingly back legalization and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – 90% back citizenship in the March 2017 CNN poll.
Unfortunately, we will have much work to do in the months and years ahead to fight against Trump’s mass deportations, to punish Republicans and other lawmakers who are complicit in helping to enact this agenda, and to stand up for an inclusive America that welcomes immigrants.
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