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Immigrants Brace for Trump Administration Threats

Can he follow through on campaign promise to deport millions?

Nov. 22, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump launched his campaign with an unprecedented attack on our nation’s immigrants. Since then, he’s danced around many issues but one thing he remains fixated on is deporting undocumented immigrants and preventing new ones from entering the country via his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and other programs. 

And any hope that the reality of his immigration promises would temper his actions was thwarted when he reaffirmed his commitment to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants and named xenophobic, anti-immigrant advisors to his administration. Top policy strategist Steve Bannon is an ally to white nationalists whose appointment was praised by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Trump’s choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has a long history of being hostile to non-whites, so much so he lost a federal judgeship confirmation in the 1980s over his beliefs. Immigration advisor Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state, created the blueprint for a Muslim registry while working for the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration. 

“The long shadow of fear that Trump has created is so destructive,” said UW-Milwaukee Professor Rachel Ida Buff, an expert on immigration.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, told the Shepherd Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda is “of grave concern” and should be taken seriously.

“I think when you appoint white nationalists to your administration and politicians who don’t represent civil rights or workers’ rights, I think you can say he is serious and I think he can get it done,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “There’s no question that we are going to see it. Some of the attacks will come sooner than others.”

What’s at Stake?

Although President Barack Obama aggressively deported undocumented immigrants, he did roll back some of Bush’s post 9-11 programs and offer new relief for undocumented immigrants and their children. Now, however, Trump could erase Obama’s protections and impose new penalties on undocumented residents, including:

 Making county jails part of the deportation machinery: Bush created the Secure Communities Program in 2008, which required local jails to share inmates’ fingerprints with federal immigration authorities. That led to a spike in deportations. The immigrants’ rights movement vigorously opposed it not only because it led to the deportation of immigrants for sometimes very minor infractions, but because it forced local law enforcement to take on federal immigration responsibilities. Obama ended the program in 2014 and replaced it with the more flexible Priority Enforcement Program. Neumann-Ortiz said she is concerned Trump will go back to the Bush program.

“The machinery is there,” she said. “It really creates an opening for racist rogue law enforcement to play an immigration-enforcement role.” 

 Ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Obama’s executive action created the DACA program for more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. Those who qualify can register with the government to gain temporary protection from deportation and a two-year renewable work visa. More than 90 college and university presidents have called on Trump to continue DACA. He’s said he would end it. 

 Ending Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA): This is another Obama executive action from 2014 but it’s been halted thanks to a lawsuit filed by a number of Republican governors, including Gov. Scott Walker. The suit blocked the program and the U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on it earlier this year, so it’s still on hold. DAPA would allow an estimated 5 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or lawful residents to be temporarily protected from deportation. Trump has promised to kill off DAPA via executive action. 

 Rejecting refugees: Trump has called for suspending the Syrian refugee program, which resettles those whose lives have been threatened by the ongoing war there. “We know that in a situation of crisis in the Mediterranean, where people are dying to get out of situations that are complex and internationally created, and certainly there’s U.S. involvement, that Trump has been articulating for a year and a half that we would accept no refugees on the grounds of trumped-up Islamophobic lies,” Buff said. 

 A Muslim registry and ban: Trump advisor Kobach has said the president-elect might revive a Bush-era database of 80,000 immigrants from 24 Muslim-majority countries plus North Korea—a database Kobach had a hand in creating. Obama removed the 25 countries from the list but the program is still in place. Trump’s pick for chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told CNN on Sunday that Trump would look at barring immigrants from countries involved in terrorism and not reject immigrants based on religion.

 Withholding funds from sanctuary cities: Trump is also toying with withholding billions in federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities, or local communities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement. Some of these cities include New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Whether the City of Milwaukee or Milwaukee County are sanctuary cities is open to debate. “To me, sanctuary means you should be able to live and operate as you would normally without having to worry about [your status], and you do have to worry about that in Milwaukee County,” said Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy Romo West. 

Wisconsin Republicans tried passing an anti-sanctuary city bill this past year and its sponsors alleged that Madison, Racine and Milwaukee County were sanctuaries. But testimony from the Milwaukee County executive’s office claimed that the county wasn’t a sanctuary, despite having an ordinance that requests the sheriff not to cooperate with immigration officers unless an immigrant detained in jail is suspected of committing a major crime. Sheriff David Clarke has refused to hand over uncensored jail documents to prove he is not cooperating with immigration officials, the subject of litigation brought by Voces de la Frontera now pending before the state Supreme Court.

The Milwaukee Police Department’s policy states it “shall not routinely inquire into the immigration status of persons encountered during police operations.” During the legislative debate, city officials stated this policy doesn’t make Milwaukee a sanctuary city. 

Voces de la Frontera’s Neumann-Ortiz urged immigrants and their allies to organize and push back on Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. The organization is holding a forum at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, at the group’s Milwaukee offices, at 1027 S. Fifth St. For more information, call 414-828-2692 or go to vdlf.org.


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