by Leslie Layton
President Donald Trump is quickly re-shaping immigration policy with an emphasis on harsh enforcement, in part by issuing executive orders that cast a much wider deportation net.
In a telephone briefing Wednesday with members of the ethnic press nationwide, immigration attorneys discussed two orders signed Jan. 25 – two days prior to the Jan. 27 order that came to be known as the Muslim ban. The earlier pair of executive orders received scant media coverage until recently, when stories began appearing about the deportations of long-term U.S. residents who have no criminal record.
But these earlier orders – one discusses interior enforcement and the other border management — together with leaked memos outline sweeping policies that will affect families in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere. The Los Angeles Times has reported that up to 8 million people in the country without authorization could become priority deportation targets.
The interior enforcement order reflects a “real broadening of Trump’s campaign promises,” said Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center .
The interior enforcement order identifies immigrants for priority deportation, and not just those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime. It includes immigrants charged but not yet convicted, and goes even further by including non-citizens if they have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” Kinoshita acknowledged the vagueness of the latter clause.
“What that means in many ways is that there really aren’t priorities here; anyone could fall under one of these categories,” Kinoshita said, adding that it reflects an effort to “really broaden the net of who could fall under deportation priorities.”
“What the immigrant community should know is that their rights haven’t changed,” Kinoshita added. She and two other attorneys at the briefing stressed that people can prepare for an immigration crackdown by preparing to exercise the Constitutional rights granted all U.S. residents. (See “Immigration Information Fair” at right to learn about a March 18 clinic sponsored by ChicoSol, APIR and other groups.)
“There is going to be a campaign really trying to pit people in the U.S. against immigrants…” — Sally Kinoshita
The border enforcement executive order discusses construction of Trump’s wall and expedited deportations. It also urges and prepares local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Attorneys, though, noted that such cooperation is voluntary; local agencies are not required to commit their resources to federal law enforcement. Kinoshita said implementation of the two executive orders will require more instruction and funding, but in the meantime, attorneys “have seen an increase in questioning and intimidation.”
Kinoshita also warned that a campaign is underway to isolate immigrant communities. All the executive orders, she said, include a reporting component designed to illustrate the costs of illegal immigration in terms of crime and social services, and without measuring the economic benefits immigration provides.
“What this says to me is, there is going to be a campaign really trying to pit people in the U.S. against immigrants… that they’re either going to see as a danger to their community or a drain on resources,” Kinoshita said. “They’re going to paint immigrants in that light.”
Kinoshita noted that leaked memos suggest three upcoming changes that may or may not actually occur:
- An end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), though work permits already issued through the program would remain in effect until expiration;
- Curtailment or an end to training and temporary work visa programs and a beefed-up E-Verify program that encourages employers to inquire into an applicant’s legal status;
- Restricted access to the United States, including for green-card holders, if they’re likely to receive any benefit based on income and financial need, such as Medicaid.
“No one has seen a mobilization like this before in defense of immigrants and refugees, and we need to keep it up” — Esther Sung
Esther Sung, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center and a member of the legal team that sued to overturn the Muslim travel ban, provided a written statement Thursday after an appeals court refused to reinstate Trump’s order. “This is a reminder to everyone: our Constitution protects us all, and no one – not even the President – is above it,” Sung stated.
At the press briefing sponsored by New America Media and Ready California, Sung said support for the many legal challenges that have been mounted has given her “tremendous hope.”
“The backlash against these executive orders has been swift, has been diverse,” Sung told reporters. “It makes it clear that these executive orders aren’t just an affront to our Constitution, they’re an affront to our American identity.
“I think it’s safe to say that no one has seen a mobilization like this before in defense of immigrants and refugees, and we need to keep it up.”
Sung said that amicus briefs – legal filings in support of lawsuits challenging the Muslim travel ban – from officials in previous U.S. administrations argue that “if national security is the goal there could not be a worse way to advance that goal.”
“It makes it clear that these executive orders aren’t just an affront to our Constitution, they’re an affront to our American identity” — Esther Sung
Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney at the ILRC, noted that state legislators and in some cases local officials are stepping up opposition to draconian measures at the federal level. Three bills have been introduced in this state, and one of those bills, SB 54, the “California Values Act,” would prevent use of state and local resources in the building of Trump’s expanded “deportation machine,” she said.
“Federal immigration law is the federal government’s job,” Ruiz said.
The attorneys said immigrants should avoid signing papers they don’t understand, opening up their homes to officials who don’t have a warrant and giving up information about their immigration status. Officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) usually don’t have warrants, and if they do, they’ll break down a door if it isn’t opened.
The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment gives people the right to remain silent, and that can be an important right to exercise if local authorities attempt to enforce federal immigration law during a simple traffic stop. After answering basic questions, a driver can claim the right to remain silent pending consultation with an attorney.
“If you are stopped while you are driving you are required to provide your driver’s license and basic information,” Ruiz noted. “But local law enforcement should not be asking you any questions about your immigration status and individuals shouldn’t answer questions about their immigration status.”
“We’re in extremely trying times,” Ruiz added.
Leslie Layton is the editor of ChicoSol.