What Do Trump’s Executive Orders Really Mean? Part 2/3

woman behind fenceThis series looks at the recent executive orders on immigration the Trump administration signed. Many, however have been left wondering what the actual impact of the new executive actions will be in practice. We hope this three-part executive order series of what we know so far will be helpful in finding answers. Click here to read parts one and three.

Trump’s executive orders massively expand the definition of “criminal alien,” effectively making it a crime just to be undocumented.

As described in our first blog in this series, Trump’s new executive orders make plain that the administration considers any undocumented immigrant a suitable target for deportation. After green-lighting this broad deportation push, however, the order also calls for the prioritization of immigrants who have been caught up in the criminal justice system. At first glance, this mirrors the Obama administration’s “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP). PEP already applied an extremely broad definition of criminality that often swept in immigrants who had committed only minor offenses and innocuous immigration violations. However, Trump’s priority categories are vastly expanded even beyond the PEP. These “criminal” categories will now include:

  • Immigrants who have been charged with a criminal offense but whose cases have “not been resolved”— meaning that the administration will effectively assume automatic guilt for any undocumented person who lands in a court room or is charged by the police;
  • Immigrants who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” This could include virtually every undocumented immigrant who crossed the border without permission at some point in the past, as “illegal entry” and “illegal reentry” are technically chargeable as federal crimes.
  • Immigrants who have given false social security numbers to an employer or have driven without a license, both of which could be charged as crimes, but which are a daily necessity for people who live here without documentation and who must work and transport themselves in order to survive.

The executive orders also direct the Justice Department to devote more resources to “the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses,” which include such harmless immigration violations as “entry at an improper time and place” and “reentry of a deported alien.” Such non-violent immigration violations already make up the majority of all federal criminal prosecutions nationwide, but senior Trump administration officials, including Jeff Sessions, have long signaled a desire to prosecute these offenses even more extensively.

In these ways and others, Trump’s executive orders effectively criminalize undocumented people purely for their immigration status. Furthermore, the focus on deporting immigrants who encounter the criminal justice system—even those who are not ultimately convicted of any crime— will particularly harm Black, Brown, and Muslim immigrants who are most vulnerable to racial profiling, false arrest, and any overbroad deployment of police powers.

Read the first and final posts in our series on how Trump’s executive orders on the completion of a border wall will gravely impact asylum-seekers.

What Do Trump’s Executive Orders Really Mean? Part 1/3

Trump and administration at press conferenceThis series looks at the recent executive orders on immigration the Trump administration signed. Many, however have been left wondering what the actual impact of the new executive actions will be in practice. We hope this three-part executive order series of what we know so far will be helpful in finding answers. Click here to read parts two and three.

President Trump climbed the rostrum at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, January 25 to a 19th century abolitionist anthem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which includes the lyric, “let us die to make men free.” Far from promising freedom, however, the new President pledged only detention, deportation, and family separation on an unprecedented scale. The orders issued on Wednesday in the name of public safety and border security—the first of several anticipated executive actions targeting refugee and immigrant communities —threaten to fulfill the worst expectations for Trump’s presidency and to bring his horrifying campaign proposals into reality.

There was no mistaking the intent behind the President’s toxic rhetoric Wednesday, which cast undocumented people as violent criminals and implied collective guilt on their part purely on the basis of race and national origin.

Trump’s executive orders will separate families and sow terror among immigrant communities through mass deportation.

The orders call for the hiring of 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, empowered to:

  • Conduct mass deportations with the broad mandate to “execute […] the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.”
  • Enable federal officers to deputize state and local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents, effectively creating an even more extensive deportation force.
  • Call for federal grants to be stripped from “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refuse to comply with or assist federal enforcement efforts.

The orders will likewise reinstate the notorious Obama-era “Secure Communities” program, under which state and local police held undocumented people in county jails on ICE detainers, to be later picked up by federal authorities and deported. “Secure Communities” was eventually retired in 2014 due to public outcry, as it effectively exposed any undocumented person who encountered local police—even for a minor offense, such as a broken taillight—to detention, deportation, and separation from their loved ones. The program not only tore families apart, but ironically, it also made communities less secure, by eviscerating trust of law enforcement agencies among the undocumented.

UUSC stands in solidarity and partnership with immigrants and refugees regardless of what comes next, so that the lyrics that accompanied the President’s speech Wednesday may be something other than a cruel irony… Let us strive to make all people free!

Read parts two and three in our series on Trump’s executive orders and their effect on criminalizing undocumented immigrants.