On Wednesday, January 25th, the President signed two sweeping executive orders that fundamentally shift our immigration enforcement systems and undermine our core American values.
By signing these executive orders, the President has made clear that he'll do everything in his power to implement his dark vision of America that was outlined in his campaign and election speeches. We fear these orders are just the first in a series of actions that will discriminate against people based on where they're from or how they worship, creating a climate of fear and chaos in immigrant communities, and undermining our values and fundamental principles.
Below is our quick take on what the order say, and what they mean to our communities. This is not an exhaustive explainer. There are so many changes outlined in the order, many that we won't fully understand until they are interpreted and implemented by various agencies.
Stay tuned for more policy updates, toolkits, and resources to make sure your city and county is part of resisting the President's draconian immigration agenda.
Mass deportations means everyone's a priority.
One of the two executive orders on Wednesday focused on massively scaling up immigration enforcement in the interior of the country. While he’ll continue to say he’s targeting dangerous criminals with enforcement actions, make no mistake about it: President Trump just gave the green light for ICE agents and local police to deport just about anyone.
President Trump essentially declares that all undocumented immigrants in this country are a threat to public safety and national security, massively expanding the definition of who should be considered a “criminal” and declared a priority for deportation. This order allows immigration enforcement agents to define nearly every undocumented immigrant a criminal, and makes it easier to deport them.
Under the order, undocumented immigrants who entered the country without inspection (as opposed to overstaying their visa) are considered priorities for deportation – this is about half of the total undocumented population. Additionally, immigration enforcement agents are instructed to prioritize anyone convicted of any criminal offense (including crimes of status like driving without a license), anyone merely charged with any criminal offense, and anyone who has committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense – but hasn’t even been charged yet. If that weren’t expansive enough, the President included a clause that says anyone who the immigration agent thinks “otherwise pose[s] a risk to public safety or national security” can also be a priority.
Read the order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
The Deportation Force - featuring your local police
During the 2016 campaign, then candidate Trump promised to create a “deportation force” to carry out his pledges of mass deportations. This executive order does that, too. The order calls for another 10,000 ICE agents to carry out his mass deportations in communities across the country. ICE already terrorizes communities – this increase guarantees we’ll see a lot more agents in our communities.
But, yesterday’s order was also an admission that the President can’t carry out his mass deportations without the help of local law enforcement. He wants to deputize (and coerce – see below) local police to act as immigration agents. In the order, he states, “[i]t is the policy of the executive branch to empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law.”
This means he’s bringing back the failed Secure Communities program that creates a clear pipeline between local jails and deportations. This program (which operated in all Tennessee jails until it was terminated in November 2014) sends finger prints from the booking process in local jails to ICE, who then asks the jail to hold people so they can pick them up and deport them—using local jails and local taxpayer money to carry out federal enforcement activities.
This also means asking local and state law enforcement to sign 287(g) agreements, deputizing local police to act as immigration enforcement agents themselves. Davidson County residents remember this disastrous program that operated from 2007-2012, which led to the deportation of 10,000 Nashvillians and drove a wedge between immigrant communities and law enforcement, undermining community policing and public safety.
Punishing so-called "sanctuary cities"
Asking local law enforcement to conduct federal immigration enforcement isn’t new, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Not only does this green light racial profiling and bias-based policing, but it completely undermines community policing. When immigrant communities see any interaction with local enforcement as the first step in the deportation process – victims will be afraid to report crimes, making our whole communities less safe.
Communities in Nashville organized to end the disastrous 287(g) program and communities in Knoxville organized to stop their Sheriff from entering into an agreement in the first place. In addition, hundreds of jurisdictions across the country (and not just well-known progressive hubs like New York and Chicago) opted out of the Secure Communities program, leading to its eventual termination in 2014.
Because the President knows he can’t carry out mass deportations without the collaboration of local law enforcement, the executive order also issues a threat to take away federal funding streams from cities that refuse. Legal experts believe this is an empty threat, that the federal government can’t coerce local agencies to enforce federal law, but the President likely hopes the threat alone will prevent some cities from opting out.
Shutting our doors, turning our backs
The other order issued on Wednesday follows through on one of the President’s most notorious campaign promises: building a wall along the Southern border. While he won’t be able to completely implement this order without additional funds from Congress, the order makes clear he is serious about building the wall and that he’ll get started with all resources already available to his departments.
The order calls for an additional 5000 border patrol agents and the construction of new detention centers along the border – a boon for private prisons. These detention centers will be needed under Trump’s new order because everyone detained (at the border or in our own communities) will be subject to mandatory detention.
The order also reveals big changes to how we’ll treat asylum seekers. About half of the people who arrived at our Southern border last year were unaccompanied children or families who were fleeing unspeakable violence in Central America. These families will now likely languish in detention without getting a fair day in court – completely undermining our principles of due process and our international commitments.
Read the order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
The announcement of the border wall comes amidst rumors that the next set of executive orders from the President will include a four-month suspension of the refugee resettlement program and a 30-day ban on migration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Taken together, these executive orders will amount to shut down of our borders. This is not who we are.