Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Mean Spirit of Immigration Enforcement under the Trump Administration. Part 1

It’s unfortunate that, after some consideration, I realize that this has to be a series with many parts.  The mean spirit of immigration enforcement characterized by this present administration is not seen in a few isolated events.  It is a conscious anti-immigrant policy directed at indiscriminate mass deportation. 

I have no apology in referring to this administration as “anti-immigrant.”  People want to correct that statement to say that it is just “anti-illegal immigrant.”  That is, in fact, not true.  It is the rhetoric coming from the administration, but it does not comport with the facts, or even with the overt statements made by the administration from day 1 of the presidential campaign.  This administration has sought to limit legal immigration at all levels, from cutting refugee admission in half, revoking DACA status, revoking TPS, to attacking business immigration, to seeking to reduce legal family immigration.

In fact, long term immigration advocates, like myself, have been astonished to see how quickly this administration’s anti-immigrant attitude has seeped down into the various agencies that deal with immigrants.  License has been given to be as harsh on immigrants trying to go through the process the correct, legal way, as possible, often resulting in arbitrary and unjust decisions by government officials without fear of repercussion.

Recall that the very first speech made by this President when announcing his candidacy included statements about immigrants that labeled them as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists.  We only need to look at the persons chosen to advise the President to see the anti-immigrant, white supremacist influences in the administration: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kris Kobach, and more.  Remember that the President made a point to his base by pardoning convicted criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio, notorious also for many civil judgements against him for his anti-immigrant and unconstitutional actions.

Let’s acknowledge at the outset that a nation state has the right to control its borders.  How it does so, however, is subject to humanitarian and moral judgements.

Without question, the current administration (and in some limited respects, previous administrations) has utterly failed to preserve human dignity in favor of an enforcement only model of immigration policy.

Example 1.  TPS Cancellation

TPS (temporary protected status) is a temporary status given to persons from certain countries where we have deemed it inhumane or too dangerous for its citizens to be forced to return because of conditions in that country.  Some 22 countries currently have TPS for their citizens that entered the U.S. before a certain date.  In some cases, that date was many years ago.  For example, TPS was granted for El Salvador first in 2001, as a result of the civil wars in the 1990s that displaced thousands of persons.  TPS has to be renewed by the government on an annual basis, and the beneficiaries are allowed to remain legally with work authorization.  It does not result in permanent residence, or citizenship, and can be revoked at any time.  Most persons relying on TPS have no other options for remaining legally in the U.S.

When TPS has continued for many years, there is an expectation (although no legal requirement) that legislation will eventually come that permits those here pursuant to TPS, who have established ties here and not committed crimes, to establish permanent residence.

First, with respect to Nicaragua, and now with respect to Haiti, the President has decided to not renew TPS.  This means that those persons here legally for years now must leave when their TPS expires, regardless of family ties, business ties, etc.  For the Nicaraguans, this is about 2,500 people.  For the Haitians, the number is closer to 70,000 to 80,000.  Nicaraguan TPS was first established in 1999, and Haitian TPS in 2010.

For Nicaraguans, this means the people suddenly losing the right to remain have been here for almost 20 years or more.  They have property, family, jobs, etc.  They may have nothing in their home countries and expect nothing on their return.  They have children born in the U.S. that are now U.S citizens.  What do they do with them?  Bring them back to their home country to forfeit any future opportunities, or allow them to stay in the U.S. and perhaps never see them again?  It is estimated that Haitian TPS holders have given birth to some 27,000 U.S. citizens after arriving here.  Do they leave them here (as it is their right to stay), or take them to Haiti?  This is indeed an inhumane “Sophie’s Choice” for these poor immigrants.

For Haitians, the administration’s actions are rife with cynicism as the President campaigned in Haitian communities just last year, proclaiming to them that he intended to be their “champion.”  Now, this champion is forcing them back to a still devastated country that in unable to receive them.

Although it is entirely legal to end TPS, there is no executive necessity for this action.  It doesn’t benefit the economy; in fact, it will hurt the economy and the employers who rely on these workers.  Families will be separated, perhaps permanently.  TPS holders are not eligible for welfare; they work and contribute to the economy.  TPS holders who commit crimes are not allowed to stay anyway, so it is not getting rid of criminal aliens. 

It is simply a mean-spirited act intended to get rid of immigrants by an anti-immigrant administration.  We predict that other countries will soon follow.  We also predict that the beneficiaries of TPS whose programs are cancelled will NOT leave voluntarily.  This means that they will have to be deported, which further adds to the cost of this executive action.

Example 2, DACA revocation (to follow).