The last few days brought us vane flirtations with “immigration reform”, speeches that paint the undocumented as criminals, more arrests of “dreamers” and parents, and more negative reactions by local law enforcement to the new “approach” by the Trump administration.
Here is my overview:
On Tuesday, President Trump gave everyone a “surprise” when he expressed during a closed-door lunch with the media, that he was in favor of “immigration reform”. Later on, a “White House source” told media that he would even consider legalization for undocumented citizens and citizenship for “dreamers.”
The headlines were extravagant: “A huge change,” said the New York Times. The Washington Post analyst (“the Fix”) said that Trump “could be the President to achieve this reform.”
Even groups like the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce reacted by way of a statement. “We join the president in urging congressional leaders to come together in finding a negotiated solution (to immigration reform).”
The problem with this is that none of it was actually true. I mean, he did say it, but he didn´t mean it. Not only did Trump not say anything about legalization during his speech to Congress that night, it now appears that everything was “a hoax,” a false leak to the media by the Administration, to get positive coverage before the speech.
CNN reported that a White House source confirmed to him that the White House “intentionally lied to reporters” before the speech about his “support” of a legalization program (which by the way, polls still show it´s supported by a majority of Americans).
If there was any doubt about it, Trump´s speech that very same night (Tuesday) could not be further from the idea of offering a legal pathway for hard working, tax paying, honest undocumented immigrants.
In the speech, Trump again framed undocumented immigrants as criminals and murderers – half of his guests to the speech that night were relatives of people murdered by immigrants, a segment of that population that is unrepresentative of the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in this country.
The idea is to paint all unauthorized immigrants as very very dangerous murderers (as he already did to Mexicans, calling them rapists and narcotraffickers, we aren´t sure if he means the Mexicans that work for him in his many businesses)
Apart from that, the president reaffirmed that his government is “deporting gang members, criminals, and drug traffickers,” but most important of all is how he defined what he calls “immigration reform.”
“Real and positive immigration reform must have three goals: to improve jobs and salaries for Americans, to strengthen the country’s security and to restore respect for the law,” Trump said.
It is very clear that none of this refers to any type of legalization for undocumented immigrants in this country.
The only thing that still gives any hope in Trump’s immigration actions is that he has not canceled DACA as he had promised and it has been most likely recommended by the attorney general Jeff Sessions and his adviser Steve Bannon, both of whom loathe immigrants.
While it is impossible to know if this is a “for now,” Trump has said on more than one occasion that the subject “is difficult” for him because he has some sympathy for these young people.
This week, however, immigration agents in Jackson, Mississippi, arrested a young Argentine dreamer whose DACA status expired in November and could not renew due to lack of funds.
The most striking thing about her case, however, is that Daniela was arrested after participating in a press conference in which she said she had been saved from ICE when they came a few days earlier to arrest her father and brother.
Her lawyer reports that the US government wants to deport her without a hearing before a judge because she came – they brought her, at age 7 – to the country with a program that allowed Argentines to visit without a prior visa for those years.
Lawyers are trying to get a court hearing on Daniela, to fight her case and have now filed an “habeas corpus” in federal court, arguing that her arrest was unconstitutional on first ammendment grounds (she was targetted after speaking at a press conference about her parent´s arrest).
Another “dreamer” who is still arrested is Daniel Ramirez Medina, a young man taken in by ICE in Seattle, Washington as a “collateral victim” when ICE came to his father’s apartment to deport the elder.
Ramirez Medina has DACA, and he has twice gone thru the extensive background checks the government does on these applicants, but authorities now claim that he “confessed to hanging out” with a gang or “being part of” a gang AFTER he was arrested.
He denies it, his family denies it and the government has presented no proof, making a number of contradictory statements that lawyers are trying to use, also in federal court, to prove his arrest was illegal.
The young man is still in prison.
Following an intense campaign by Amnesty International, Sara Beltran Hernandez, 26, was released from an ICE detention center in Texas late last week. She crossed the border in November 2015 from El Salvador and alleged that she was fleeing domestic and gang violence, but was arrested and jailed by ICE and on Jan. 26 her arrest and deportation were ordered.
Once at the detention center, Sara became ill and was taken to the hospital where the brain tumor was identified, but after an initial treatment, she was returned to the detention center.
On Thursday, thanks to a lobbying campaign and lawyers who represented her, Sarah was released on bail by an immigration judge. Her sister, who lives here, paid the bail and took her home with her.
ICE agents continued to work on arresting parents, in one case doing so while a particular parent in Los Angeles, California took his daughters to school.
ICE agents arrested Rómulo Avélica for an old deportation order that included a DUI many years ago. Avélica was arrested last Tuesday and remains in detention as his wife, and five children wonder what will become of them if deported.
His kids are US citizens.
In Houston, ICE also deported Jose Escobar, a husband, and father of two citizens last week. Jose had no criminal record and had received TPS status 16 years ago. The problem is that his status expired and not renewed when his mother thought-incorrectly-that he would automatically be included in her renewal.
Escobar received a temporary deportation suspension in 2012, a work permit and an annual appointment with ICE, and when he showed up to it this past February 22, they took him in and deported him to El Salvador, which happened. His wife Rosa and his two children, Walter, seven years old and Carmen, two years old, remain in Texas.
This week, 63 police chiefs and law enforcement officials from across the country sent a letter to the US Congress urging a constructive approach to the implementation of migration policies that prioritizes criminals and not peaceful residents and added that this method is vital to preserving community safety.
“Building a trust relationship between the local police and the refugee and immigrant community is critical in providing security for all,” said Chief of Police William Bones of Boise, Idaho. “It is key for us to create programs and policies that foster stronger links for all members of our community and avoid creating barriers to communication.”
These leaders disagree with President Trump’s ideas, outlined in a recent executive order, that would force local cities and police to engage in migratory tasks, over and above their work to enforce criminal laws.