Donald Trump: Deporter-in-Chief
By Remy Anne
When Donald Trump made his official campaign announcement on June 16, 2015, he uttered what might be his most quoted statement on immigration:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
This set the tone for the rest of his campaign and coincidentally the first few weeks of his presidency. Since January 20th, the Trump administration has continued to double down on this rhetoric, both in regard to policies issued and press statements.
The last two weeks have seen the first steps towards the President making good on that first campaign promise. For the first time after his January 26th executive order on immigration — which spawned nationwide protests and a court battle — the country learned what ICE raids look like under this new administration.
Eleven states, including California, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin, recently reported such raids, which served to instill terror and anxiety in many communities. Both immigration activists and elected officials spoke out against the heightened intensity of these raids, citing them as a clear shift in the nature of enforcement policies. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement claiming ICE’s actions were “consistent with the routine.”
While the number of arrested undocumented immigrants does not seem highly elevated, the tactics by which they were rounded up is cause for concern. In Austin, TX, a city where the majority of criminal undocumented immigrants were previously rounded up in routine jail raids, communities were shaken by reports of immigration officers entering neighborhoods and family areas. Witnesses reported seeing a truck driver targeted by ICE authorities, and his passenger being arrested as well, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a focused shift from the policies of the Obama administration — an administration that was notably not a friend of most immigration activists, who went so far as to nickname the former president “Deporter-in-Chief.”
The mayor of Austin, Steve Adler weighed in on the previous administration’s methods, stating that the majority of immigrants targeted had active warrants,
“They were criminals or — and that if during the Obama administration, my understanding from talking to our consul general, is that when they would pick that person up, they wouldn’t pick up the other three or four people that happened to be around them that were caught in that moment. What’s happening now, I understand, is they’re not only picking up the person who has the criminal background but somebody who does not.”
This speaks to an intense broadening of both the situational circumstances of ICE raids and the way the federal government defines criminal undocumented immigrants. By expanding the scope of immigrants targeted for deportation, Trump’s executive order has opened up the doors for many undocumented families and children to face the same scrutiny previously reserved for criminals. California State Senate President Kevin de León spoke passionately against this trend, defending the law-abiding, tax-paying undocumented immigrants that reside in his state, claiming that these new policies would “mak[e] children fatherless, as well as motherless, separating children from their mothers, and mothers from their children.”
While this country’s political climate concerning immigration was already tense, the execution of these recent enforcement activities and ICE’s handling of the situation has added gasoline to the fire. On Saturday, the fears of immigration activists were validated, as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed memos issuing new, sweeping guidelines giving federal authorities the ability to more aggressively target and detain unauthorized immigrants.
These memos authorized the exact sort of aforementioned definition expansion of “priority cases,” giving federal immigration authorities the leeway witnesses reported seeing in the previous raids. Additionally, they referenced the hiring of thousands of more immigration enforcement officers and detailed plans to enlist the help of local law enforcement to speed up deportations.
The sum of all these events is very clear. Donald Trump intends to move forward on the promises he made to enthusiastic supporters along the campaign trail — despite the fact that when polled, only 35% of his supporters actually believe undocumented immigrants pose a significant threat to American jobs. Additionally, in 2015, a whopping 72% of Americans believed that undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to remain if certain requirements are met.
Regardless of where the American people stand, Donald Trump believes removing undocumented immigrants is a top priority in the quest to “Make America Great Again.” And as he sends tweets like this from Trump Tower, a structure built by the hands of undocumented Polish workers:
The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!
We can be sure of one thing — he told us where he stood on this matter from the very beginning.