On Wednesday, the new President signed two executive orders related to immigration. Advocates have also seen draft orders that have been published in the press but which have not been signed by the President. And, the President has made a number of alarming statements regarding immigrants and immigration which demand clarification. In this post we offer our dedicated supporters our best understanding of the signed orders, draft orders, and public statements.
The executive orders raise countless constitutional question and are full of just plain logistical and budgetary problems. They also make claims that lack basis in fact, or rely on biases or assumptions that have been thoroughly debunked. Not surprisingly, it will take some time to interpret them. But while everything is sorted out by the agencies, in Congress, and most assuredly in the courts, the orders will likely have the effect of sowing fear among immigrants as well as individuals whose friends and relatives are undocumented.
The Young Center, through its staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters, remains committed to ensuring decisions about immigration policy—which have a far reaching impact on the safety of children, both immigrant and non-immigrant—are based on fact and reflect the American value of caring for, protecting and treasuring children. That they do not turn on stereotypes, bias, or ignorance. That immigrant children are recognized first as children. And that no decisions should be made about children that do not consider their best interests—their safety and well-being, informed by their wishes. Stay tuned for more updates and links to critical resources.
Executive Order Related to Sanctuary Communities (signed January 25, 2017):
- Calls for the hiring of 10,000 new immigration officers
- Expands programs under which which state law enforcement are deputized to enforce immigration laws and collaborate with immigration authorities—turning local police into immigration police
- Bans communities from prohibiting their police to communicate certain information about immigration status to immigration authorities
- Threatens loss of federal funding for municipalities that do not comply; how this would take place is completely unclear
Executive Order Related to Border Security (signed January 25, 2017)
- Creates the possibility that many more immigrants—including all of those who present themselves to immigration officials to ask for protection, which is explicitly permitted under US law—will lose the right to raise their protection claim before an immigration judge. Instead, they would only be able to present their case to an agency official, often within hours or days of arriving after a traumatic journey.
- Dramatically expands the number of undocumented immigrants within the United States who are priorities for enforcement—so much so that the priorities cover nearly everyone, making the priorities (which were previously based on criteria such as a serious criminal history) meaningless.
- Authorizes construction of a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border without specifying how it will be funded
- Calls for DHS to build more detention facilities along the border, where there are no attorneys, physicians, social workers, or other service providers for traumatized children, parents, and adults. We should expect this to result in increased funding going to private, for-profit corporations operating immigration prisons.
- Suggests that U.S. asylum laws and international law will be ignored in a “return to territory” provision that calls for individuals to be returned to the territory they came from pending their asylum hearing—in other words, asylum seekers from Asia, South America and Central America could be forced to return to Mexico, the country they last passed through before seeking protection in the United States, while they await their U.S. immigration hearing.
Draft Executive Order Related to Refugees and Muslim Immigrants: (still unsigned):
- Bans admission from (presumably) 7 predominantly Muslim countries—history has shown that these lists tend to escalate rapidly. The ban on admissions is for 30 days, but could be extended.
- Suspends entry of all refugees for 120 days—this likely violates US and international law on the protection of refugees. These individuals have already been approved as refugees by the US and passed rigorous screening and security clearance processes. The wholesale ban on people from certain countries may also be unconstitutional.
- When refugee resettlement resumes, it will give priority to “religious minorities” (expected to be Christians, in predominantly Muslim countries)
- The ban on Syrians, specifically will remain in place at President’s discretion
- Once suspension ends, refugee resettlement will be cut in half from 110,000 to 50,000—an about-face from last year’s commitments to increase refugee admissions, and the United States’ call to other nations to increase their refugee admissions
Draft Executive Order on DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- The administration has not yet taken action with respect to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The DACA program provides temporary protection from deportation for three-quarters of a million young people who came to the U.S. as young children and who are in school, have graduated, or enrolled in the military. Under DACA, those young people may work lawfully and therefore help support their families, their communities and the economy.
- A draft executive order leaked the week of January 23 would end any new grants of DACA status. Young people who currently have DACA status would lose those protections once their status expires; and it would not be renewed.
Administration’s Claims of Voter Fraud by Immigrants: The Administration continues to propagate an entirely unsubstantiated claim that fraudulent voting by immigrants led to the President’s loss in the popular election. There is no basis for this allegation and the administration has made no effort to provide one. Academics and journalists have demonstrated that voter fraud is nearly non-existent, and courts—including the 4th and 5th Circuits—agree. (Those studies, reports and cases are identified and summarized here: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth). Rather, vote suppression and discrimination against voters are much greater threats to democracy than fraudulent voting.
On Friday, February 10th, at 2:00 EST the Young Center will host a webinar—we will update you on the impact of the recent Executive Orders, what it all means, the Young Center’s next steps and let you know what you can do. If you would like to join the webinar, please register here.