These past several weeks we’ve heard of some unthinkable attacks on migrants coming to the U.S. seeking refuge. From children being denied toothbrushes, families dying as they cross the Rio Grande River seeking asylum, and communities across the nation being targeted by threats of ICE raids, Trump is doubling down on his campaign promise to “Build the Wall.” But, we shouldn’t lose track of all the other horrifying policies the Trump administration has effectuated since it came into power.
This is part of a coordinated effort to punish immigrant communities.
If we take a step back, we can see this administration’s plan all along: to demonize immigrants and punish marginalized communities into silence. Immigrants, and especially LGBTQ immigrants and those who are seeking an abortion, are under attack. Here are just some of the ways Trump has targeted already vulnerable immigrant communities:
- Profiling immigrants who come from “Muslim-majority” countries: Just one week after taking office, Trump signed an Executive Order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, suspended entry for all Syrian refugees, and prohibited any other refugees from coming into the country for three months. One year after the ban, many families are still suffering from the repercussions.
- Gutting DACA: In September 2017, Trump announced his decision to end the Obama-era program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children. While courts across the country have blocked the enforcement of this order, the Supreme Court has just announced it will hear the case in the next Term.
- Denying immigrants from accessing constitutionally-protected abortion care: The Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to force unaccompanied minors to carry unwanted pregnancies. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit has rightly blocked this harmful and unconstitutional policy, ruling a couple of weeks ago that the administration’s blanket ban on abortions for young migrant individuals in federal custody is unconstitutional.
- Forcibly separating immigrant families: We also learned last summer that the Trump Administration forcibly separated thousands of kids from their families. Even though Trump said he ended that policy last year, we now know that they are still separating some families.
- Endangering the lives of migrant children: In September 2018, Trump proposed administrative rules that would end a policy that provides protections for migrant children in government custody. Even though those protections are still in place, migrant children continue to be mistreated at DHS facilities. Just last week, the Trump administration was arguing in court that they were not required to provide children in their custody with “sleeping accommodations, toothbrushes, toothpaste, showers, towels and dry clothes.” There have been reports of migrant children dying in custody, and at least some have died shortly after being released. This is unacceptable.
- Expanding the “public charge” rule: In October 2018, the Trump administration proposed an expanded definition of “public charge” to include a range of critical public programs (such as food and housing assistance). “Public charge” is a term used by the government to determine if a person is primarily dependent on the government for support, usually in the form of public assistance programs. If the government determines that someone is a public charge, their immigration status could be impacted. If the rule is finalized, it means that immigrants could be negatively affected just for accessing basic food, income, and health support they need for themselves and their families.
- Detaining pregnant women, shackling them while in labor, and then forcing some to hand over their newborns: Last year, the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy that would release pregnant women from immigration detention and also provided that they could not be physically restrained while in labor. And now, there are news reports that some asylum seekers in the Western District of Texas who had given birth in custody were forced to hand over their newborns into the foster care system.
- Creating an immigration crisis: As of May 2019, there are more than 52,000 immigrants in ICE custody, “an apparent all-time high” – often in overcrowded cages with little access to legal or medical assistance. The Trump administration promulgated policies that created this humanitarian crisis, and now thousands of asylum seekers and immigrants are being held in facilities with “egregious” conditions.
- Threatening to evict over 25,000 immigrant families from their homes: On May 10, 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would prohibit “mixed-status” families from living in public housing and Section 8 units. Mixed-status families are families that include members who are both eligible and ineligible for housing assistance based on their immigration status. Under this new rule, mixed-status families would lose all of their housing aid, pushing many of them out of affordable housing.
Basically, cruelty is the goal when it comes to the Trump Administration and its immigration policies.
In the midst of all these attacks, the Trump administration is shuffling immigration agencies’ leadership, creating confusion and more chaos.
If you’ve missed the rotating band of unqualified appointees to various immigration agencies, don’t feel too bad, because there’s been a lot of turnover– and it’s very confusing. Since getting elected, Trump has filled agency positions with political ideologues who will fall in line with his dangerous policies.
Here are just some of the recent moves in immigration agencies:
- In April of this year, the Trump administration pushed Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, out of her role, after she refused Trump’s request to close the ports of entry along the border and stop accepting asylum leaders. (Nielsen wasn’t great either – her most enduring legacy was carrying out the administrations “zero tolerance” policy in the border, effectively separating thousands of migrant children from their families.)
- A few weeks ago, the Trump administration announced that Ken Cuccinelli would become Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS), a position created for Cuccinelli, so he could bypass Senate confirmation required of USCIS directors. The USCIS is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security that administers naturalization processes, including asylum cases.
- A couple of weeks ago, John Sanders resigned as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner, amidst outrage for the agency’s handling of migrant children and families in CBP’s custody. Mark Morgan, the current ICE director, is poised to take over CBP – even though he has made racist comments about migrant kids in the past. He went as far as to say that when he looked “into the eyes” of these migrant children, he could tell “that is a soon to be a MS–13 gang member.”
While we don’t know how long Cuccinelli or Morgan will last in their roles, we know that Trump’s sustained and systemic attack on immigrants will continue. So, no matter who is in charge, we loudly say: No one deserves to be separated from their family, denied their constitutional right to abortion, or stripped of their dignity simply because of the way they came to the United States or their immigration status.