The past weekend’s immigration raids across the country by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) have immigrant communities living in fear and confusion. Trump’s indiscriminate raids appear to set the stage for a larger mass deportation of the 11 million people in the United States without legal status.
David Leopold, a leading immigration lawyer said, “This is the beginning of the Trump deportation force. The president is making good on his promise to deport millions of people – it shows that he has to be taken literally.”
“People are scared; they don’t want to leave their homes or take their kids to school. Businesses are already hurting as a result of people stopping to engage in everyday activities,” said Sarah Owings, spokesperson for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Adrian Reyna of United We Dream, said “the White House has given ICE a free pass.” “So at this point anyone is a priority. The machine has let loose.”
An immigrant rights group, the Center for Community Change, calls this change, “horrific overreach that will destroy families and undermine the American dream for thousands.”
ICE calls these routine raids unrelated to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. However, the recent national raids sweeping up any and all undocumented residents is of far greater scope than anything under the Obama policies. Trump originally proposed the need to remove criminals, not simply undocumented residents. But in the recent raids, of the 680 arrested, it’s estimated 25% of those have no criminal records. They simply are undocumented but have no criminal record. This goes far beyond the immigration policy of President Obama and may violate protections put in place by the Obama Administration.
A lawsuit was filed on Monday against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following the arrest of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a Seattle resident and DREAMer, who had a work permit. Medina was protected under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Trump hasn’t overturned the DACA program, but the arresting ICE officer told Medina that his DACA status didn’t matter since he wasn’t born in the United States. Trump’s executive order in effect overrides the DACA protections. Trump’s executive order expands ICE officers’ discretion and the determination of legal status. The lawsuit challenges the authority of DHS to ignore Medina’s protected status. There is great fear that the ICE agents have been emboldened by Trump’s executive order.
DHS confirmed that the new legal determination of “criminal aliens” will include anyone who has entered the United States illegally or overstayed the terms of their visa. There are an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States that will fit that profile. This is a frightening and unprecedented expansion of Trump’s executive power over immigration policy. It ignores and rejects the immigration policies that have been practiced by the last several presidents.
In addition to Medina, several other cases have gained national attention. A Denver mother of four, Jeanette Vizguerra, who has been in the United States since 1997 is taking sanctuary in a Unitarian Church after her deportation extension was suddenly denied.
The pastor of the church offered this comment on her behalf, “I think it is unconscionable, and I think that it’s immoral that Jeanette, who has been in this country for almost 20 years, who has three children who are American citizens, who has been fighting her case with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for five years.”
Another mother in Arizona, Guadalupe García de Rayos was deported on Friday after she appeared for her routine ICE check-in. Garcia de Rayos had been checking in regularly for years when she was suddenly torn from her husband and three children and deported back to Mexico. She first entered the country in the 1990s when she was 14.
The immigrant community is protesting and seeking legal help in many of these cases. Here in Iowa several schools, cities and churches are offering immigrants sanctuary from ICE raids. The Iowa City Council stopped short of declaring sanctuary but, “will take no law enforcement action toward and commit no local resources toward enforcing federal immigration law.” Des Moines Public Schools passed a resolution to act as a “sanctuary” for immigrant students. The American Friends Service Committee has given Des Moines churches advice on how to become locations of sanctuary or support other churches that will do so. In December, Drake University declared that it “will be a sanctuary – a place of refuge or safety – for undocumented members of our community.”
A national movement called “A Day Without Immigrants” will hold a rally in Des Moines today, February 16. It will begin at 11:45-1:00 at La Placita, east 15th and Grand. Over 70 Latino businesses have pledged to remain closed today in support of the rally. They are protesting a Republican anti-immigrant sponsored bill HF265 in the Iowa legislature that would limit cities, counties and universities from enacting sanctuary policies. This is one more bill we should oppose. The Iowa immigrant and refugee community need our support at this critical time.
by Rick Smith