Whether we like to admit it or not, the Trump White House has succeeded at something: creating an atmosphere of fear in immigrant communities. I know this because I live in an immigrant community.
Immigrants call my office everyday because they are afraid to live their lives as normal. Some of these callers already have a Green Card! They know that the new immigration policies may indeed upend their lives.
In less than one year, we have seen a concerted effort to divide our country along the lines of “us” versus “them.” I won’t go into who the “us” is in this scenario; I will leave that up to our conscience to define.
“Them” in this scenario are clearly immigrants—every immigrant, including legal permanent residences and those with an unlawful (or undocumented) status. Naturalized citizens are also not exempt from this broad definition of “them.”
This is a clearly defined goal. But what basis is the Trump White House using to determine which immigrants are deserving of removal? No one has an answer to this question.
In the below video, I discuss the major changes to our immigration system by the Trump White House to achieve its deportation goals. You may also read my blog about this issue, “Major Changes in USA Immigration System.”
#1: The Trump White House says that it is targeting “violent criminal aliens.”
These are aliens who aren’t deserving of the liberties and blessings enjoyed by law-abiding citizens because they obviously violated our laws. Okay, that sounds legit and convincing until we dig a bit further.
Who are these “criminal aliens?” Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States defines criminal aliens for us:
But, wait. There’s more…
The Trump White House is essentially saying that if any noncitizen falls into one of the above categories, they should be deported!
Watch my video about this executive order and the definition of criminal aliens.
As you can see, immigrants who were never convicted of a crime may be considered “criminal aliens.” This should disturb you. These include immigrants who our criminal justice system has not labeled as criminals. However, the Trump White House is painting them as criminals.
Even more alarming is the broad discretion given to immigration agents to determine whether an immigrant poses a risk to our public safety and national security.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I wouldn’t disagree with arguments based on our public safety. After all, I want to be just as safe as the next person.
But is public safety really at the heart of these policy changes? Immigrants clearly aren’t the only ones committing crimes.
#2: The Trump White House then said every illegal alien should be deported.
Again, this includes immigrants who may or may not have a criminal record.
The Trump White House rationalized this broader definition of immigrants deserving of deportation by saying that these people are in fact criminals because they have broken our civil immigration laws.
Who are some of this immigration violators? They include people who lawfully entered our country on a visa and overstayed their visa. It also includes those who entered without some form of inspection.
But did you now that the number of illegal immigrants who entered lawfully with a visa outpaces the number of those who crossed our borders illegally? In 2016, an estimated 630,000 immigrants overstayed their visas, while fewer than 500,000 people illegally snuck into our country.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Both numbers represent a staggering number of people who have found ways of circumventing our laws, and this is absolutely wrong. However, if the real problem is with visa overstays,why isn’t the Trump White House focusing on visa overstays?
In this video, I discuss the increased numbers of immigration arrests and deportations taking place across our country since Donald Trump became our President:
The Trump White House may argue that they are addressing the problem of visa overstays by clamping down on visa approvals and scrutinizing applications more harshly. But the overwhelming focus has not been on visa overstays.
#3: The politics of fear is a failing strategy. It will backfire eventually.
Politicians politicize issues. This is what they do best. Immigration is no exception. Immigrants are vulnerable, and they represent an easy target.
The politics of fear is an old strategy that unfortunately produces the kind of results politicians want to see: anger and resentment towards certain groups. This anger and resentment lead people to support a political “savior” who has the so-called foresight to see how these groups are devastating our country.
The Trump White House deployed the strategy of fear from the beginning of the 2016 political campaign season. It stirred up anger and suspicion of our neighbors. It made us begin to look at our neighbors differently. Fear is dividing our country at a time when we were learning how to respect our differences.
#4: The Trump White House has ushered in an era that is sure to over-criminalize immigrants.
Our laws are designed to protect all of us, including immigrants. This protection also extends to encroachments by our government that unfairly target certain groups of people and restrict their liberties.
The Trump White House claims that it will restore “law and order.” But this is the same old law enforcement strategy that has devastated African-American communities since the 1970s.
This approach zeroes in on certain groups and geographic regions. But there is never any real metrics to help us understand what the government is looking for or hope to achieve from such strategies.
In the end, these failed strategies led to the mass incarceration of black men and shameful inequities that fuel the economic engine of our criminal justice system. Now, black immigrant men, in particular, face a double whammy of the strategic pursuit of local law enforcement officers and immigration officers.
Black immigrants now face mounting pressures from both local police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
#5: Immigrants may be physically present on U.S. soil, be many are still standing on the other side of liberty.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Yes, we are in the same boat today. We are all in this great country together. But for the immigrant, they are standing on the side of liberty that causes them to tremble.
Where do we go from here? Do we want an America where our leaders pull our strings like a puppet and tell us how to think and treat our immigrant neighbors?
Should those same leaders get away with stirring up fears and suspicion in our minds about our hardworking neighbors who we attend school, work and church with? Should Green Card holders be afraid of losing their rights to live and work in this country because our leaders have decided that immigrants are dispensable? Let’s reject fear and implement humane immigration policies.
#6: Immigrants must not lose hope in our American ideals.
My family watched and dreamed from a distant—Jamaica—about the ideals of America. They dreamed about living in a country where they would be free to work hard, get ahead and chart a brighter future for their children.
My parents dreamed about a country that was gracious and welcoming to immigrants. America was their beacon of hope and where opportunities abounded. America was the place where their blood and sweat would lay the groundwork for future generations.
This was the land of promise and the land where they wanted to give their lives for. These ideals trickled down to me. But thanks to my parents, I didn’t have to dream about these ideals from afar. I got to experience all of this right here on U.S. soil.
I immigrated to the U.S. early enough to experience some of the wonders it promises to hardworking and law abiding immigrants like me. No one had to convince me of the power of these ideals because I lived them and still do.
These ideals are the spirit of America. They existed before the Trump White House, and they will certainly be here after he leaves the White House.
The Law Office of LaToya N. McBean is a solo immigration law office in Brooklyn, New York. We help families and businesses with Green Card, visas, naturalization/citizenship, removal, waivers and appeals. We are equipped to serve clients in all 50 states and outside of the United States.
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