Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration Met With Criticism and Resistance

By Deepa Iyer Jan 25, 2017

President Donald Trump issued a pair of executive orders today (January 25) entitled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. Together, these executive orders contain provisions that are deeply alarming to immigrant and refugee communities and advocates because of their focus on immigration enforcement. Below is a brief glance at some of the broad themes contained in the two executive orders.

Construction of a wall and detention facilities. One of President Trump’s promises on the campaign trail was the construction of a wall at the southern border. Today, he directed federal agencies to begin the design and construction of a barrier and to establish additional detention centers at the border.

Increased federal and local level immigration enforcement. The executive orders contain a number of provisions that would aid the federal government as well as local law enforcement in identifying, detaining and removing individuals in the United States without immigration status. For example, the government will add 5,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to perform enforcement functions.  In addition, the executive orders end what’s known as “catch and release”, the practice of quickly returning people crossing the southern border, in favor of apprehending and detaining them. The executive orders also urge coordination between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities through 287 (g) agreements with state governors. These agreements would essentially provide local law enforcement with the authority and tools to enforce federal immigration laws, a practice that has long been criticized because it sews distrust between police officers and immigrant communities. Additionally, the executive orders prioritize certain people for removal from the United States, including those who have been convicted of, or charged with, criminal offenses, as well as those deemed by immigration officers to be a risk to public safety or national security. Lastly, the executive orders direct federal agency heads to negotiate agreements with foreign governments to take back their own nationals who are removed from the United States.

Sanctuary Jurisdictions Punished. While sanctuary cities existed long before the 2016 election, many more jurisdictions designated themselves as safe zones afterwards. In many sanctuary jurisdictions, state officials do not turn over undocumented immigrants to federal immigration enforcement. Today’s executive orders state that sanctuary jurisdictions will not be eligible to receive federal grants other than for law enforcement purposes. In addition, DHS will publicize a list of jurisdictions that continue to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Office for Victims of Crime Created. During the press conference where he announced the executive orders, President Trump recognized the “Angel Moms” who have lost children at the hands of criminal offenders unlawfully present in the United States. He also called for the creation of an Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens to support these families.

Today’s executive orders were met with harsh criticism from immigrant rights organizations. Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, noted in an email: “President Trump campaigned on a hateful, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and anti-Muslim vision for America—a vision that, through his actions today, could become an extremely harsh reality. These executive orders will be costly, ineffective, and harmful, and they’ll have devastating consequences for all of us.”

And some local officials are also weighing in on Trump’s message to sanctuary cities. For example, Newark (NJ) Mayor Ras J. Baraka is quoted as saying: “Our city has a policy of protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation by U.S. immigration authorities. We see no reason to change that policy.” The Sacramento Bee reports that many California state legislators are ready to push back against the Trump executive orders. State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is one of them: “If President Trump believes signing a piece of paper will for one second change how San Francisco and California value and protect our immigrant neighbors, he is underestimating our strength and spirit. Our immigrant communities need us more than ever and we will be there for them every step of the way. Trump can try to build his wall and he can try to cut off funding for sanctuary cities, but he’s in for one hell of a fight.”

On Thursday, President Trump is expected to announce an executive order that will suspend the refugee adjudication process, and impose a ban on the entry of individuals who come from particular countries, all of whom have large Muslim populations.