It’s been such a disastrous and discouraging year for immigrants and their allies that it’s difficult to keep track of everything that’s happened since Trump took office. Here’s a look back at the lowest of the low.
1. Dismantling DACA
Breaking his promise to show DREAMers “great heart,” the evidently heartless President Trump terminated DACA in September. The move threw the lives of approximately 800,000 young immigrants, plus their families, into disarray. Many fear that they and their families could be deported when the program ends officially in March 2018. Thousands have already lost their benefits during the phase-off.
The Obama-era program, which provides protection from deportation and a work permit for immigrants brought to the country as children, generated massive social and economic success, plus enjoyed widespread support across the country.
Since the announcement, DREAMers have held numerous protests to push Congress to sign a DREAM Act. Seven young immigrant leaders were detained following a civil disobedience protest at Capitol Hill on December 15. But Congress, which has barely been able to avoid a government shutdown, has put off negotiating a solution for DACA-DREAMers until January.
2. Prioritizing the deportation of all undocumented immigrants
Only a few days after Trump was inaugurated, he started attacking immigrants with executive orders (EOs). The typical process for issuing executive orders involves first discussing them extensively with policymakers and legal experts. But Trump’s commands were rattled off dictator-style, with little more consideration than he puts into a tweet.
On January 25, Trump signed the Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States order, which stated, in part: “I hereby direct agencies to employ all lawful means to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.”
The EO uses such broad language it essentially makes any undocumented immigrant a priority for deportation. We’ve seen the result of this policy: In fiscal year 2017, border arrests dropped by 25 percent, but immigration arrests in the interior of the U.S. have ramped up 40 percent.
3. Ordering the border wall
The same day Trump signed the above executive order, he signed another EO instructing the Department of Homeland Security to “immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border.” This order set the tone for the administration with its inhumane language and false accusations: “Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”
What’s happening with that “great wall” Trump said would be paid for by Mexico? It’s as phony as his orange skin. Currently, it consists of eight demonstration structures no more than 30 feet long each, languishing in the desert near San Diego.
4. Banning Muslims from traveling to the U.S.
As if those executive orders weren’t paranoid and fear-mongering enough, Trump issued a third EO that banned the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and stopped all refugee admissions for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely. People from majority-Muslim countries where Trump does business, however, were allowed in.
The EO sparked immediate and complete chaos at airports around the country, largely because Trump is such a terrible leader he didn’t bother to check the legality of the order beforehand and didn’t communicate the dictate to the people who would have to enforce it. The Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary reportedly didn’t even know about the travel ban until he read about it in the newspaper.
Courts blocked the order within days. In March, Trump issued a revised edition, which was partially blocked by courts. In September, Trump issued travel ban 3.0, which the Supreme Court allowed to go through while the courts debate its legality.
5. Targeting non-criminals, DREAMers and children
While the Obama administration focused its immigration enforcement on criminals, the Trump administration is sweeping up longstanding residents and even children in its dragnet. In one incident, at least 10 DACA beneficiaries were detained at a border patrol checkpoint in Texas. Another DACA recipient, the father of a 3-year-old American citizen, was picked up at his home for committing the terrible crime of having a tattoo of his birth city, which ICE said indicated possible gang activity. In perhaps the most egregious incident, a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy was detained after she was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery.
These senseless acts are spreading fear in communities throughout the country. They are also a gross misuse of federal funds, which could go toward catching criminals who actually “present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” rather than little girls and young parents.
6. Appointing anti-immigrant extremists to top positions
Trump appointed so many extremists it’s tough to narrow it down. But we’ll start with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Keebler elf exterior only serves to make his extreme racism seem more evil. As a senator, Sessions opposed almost every immigration bill during the past two decades that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also fought legal immigration and supported the elimination of DACA.
Trump named as his senior advisor for policy and top immigration advisor Stephen Miller – an anti-Latino, anti Native American, anti-legal-immigrant racist whose own family likens him to Hitler propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Trump also named Julie Kirchner, former head of an anti-immigrant hate group, as the ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
7. Targeting Sanctuary Cities
Trump has long railed against so-called “sanctuary cities” – municipalities that engage in varying practices such as barring government employees from asking residents about their immigration status or refusing ICE detainers unless the person has committed a serious crime.
In March, Jeff Sessions warned the country that the Department of Justice would refuse to give nearly $4 billion in funds to any sanctuary municipality.
“President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families,” responded New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and those they bravely serve; yet, again and again, President Trump’s draconian policies only serve to undercut that trust.”
8. Pardoning Arpaio
On August 25, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court. According to Trump, Joe was “convicted for doing his job.” Apparently, the President believes the job of an American sheriff includes running a self-described “concentration camp” where prisoners were abused and committed suicide at alarming rates, encouraging officers to follow Latinos around in their cars and pull them over for infractions as small as a cracked windshield in order to ask for their papers, and flagrantly disobeying a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
The pardon went against Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations and the intent of the Constitution. Pardons are supposed to be issued many years after the conviction, based on the convicted person’s remorse, good behavior, and restitution to victims. Arpaio was convicted only four weeks before and actually bragged about his actions against immigrants.
9. Spying on immigrants’ social media and people who visited anti-Trump site
Taking a page out of George Orwell’s 1984, the Trump administration announced it will collect social media information from all immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens.
10. Taking away TPS
The Department of Homeland Security (DPS) terminated the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua in 2017, putting tens of thousands of people on a frightening path to losing their documented status and being in danger of deportation. Several other countries’ TPS designations, including that of El Salvador, are expected to be decided upon in early 2018.
TPS has offered protection to an estimated 325,000 individuals from designated countries facing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Many of the countries still suffer through these crises years after the original designation was made.