The Department of Homeland Security released documents Tuesday that highlighted the Trump administration’s plans to hire additional border agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and allow state and local law enforcement to act as immigration officers.
These new guidelines, which have already affected IU and Bloomington, open up the potential for a vast increase in the number of people who will be deported.
Willy Palomo, a second-year master’s student and president of UndocuHoosier Alliance, an organization that provides resources such as legal and financial help to undocumented students, said ICE raids have increased nationwide and Bloomington is no exception.
“It’s a huge mismanagement of resources and an irresponsible use of power,” he said of the new guidelines.
Priority for deportation has been placed on those living here illegally who have been convicted of a criminal offense.
However, the language has shifted from Obama administration immigration policy, which placed priority on those who have been convicted of violent crimes, to include anyone who has been charged with or convicted of any criminal offense.
There could also be a potential for more unauthorized immigrants to be sent back through expedited removal, meaning some people will be deported without being able to see a judge.
Immigrants who arrived in the United States as children are currently under the protection of the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
For now, the Trump administration has left DACA alone and does not have plans to eliminate the program at the moment.
However, these new orders open up a larger potential for mixed-status families to be separated than before. Palomo said there are many IU students who are protected from deportation but fear for parents, siblings and other family members who are not.
“Families are going to be torn apart, which is a huge tragedy,” he said.
Christie Popp is an immigration lawyer in Bloomington. Ever since Trump took office she has seen an influx of students and residents who are worried about their fates under the new administration, she said.
Popp raised concerns about the practicality of deporting more immigrants when immigration courts are already extremely backlogged, she said. Many cases take four to six years to be heard.
She also believes that the Obama administration’s policies, while not perfect, provided a sense of stability for families. The new policies do not make any special provisions for families.
“Children didn’t have to worry about coming home and their parents not being there or being in a detention facility two states away,” she said.
Popp’s law firm is part of a coalition with the UndocuHoosier Alliance that will be having “Know Your Rights” workshops every Monday starting next week for the next five weeks. The workshops are for people who want to learn about what to do in the event they are questioned or arrested by ICE.
Dina Okamoto, a professor of sociology and director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at IU, said the data simply does not demonstrate a need for these aggressive policies.
“The social science research shows that in neighborhoods where immigrants are concentrated crime rates are actually lower,” she said.
She said that the debate about illegal immigration has been framed in a way that presents immigrants as a threat, which makes some people fearful of them. However, many of these people have been living in the U.S. for a decade or more.
“They’ve built their lives here. They want what everyone else wants,” she said. “They want to make a living, they want to basically do all they can to create a better life for their kids. That’s why people are coming here.”
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