Commentary, immigration, Trump Administration

Trump’s destructive war on immigrants is taking a deadly toll

Journalist James Garcia authored a powerful essay recently in the Arizona Mirror that does a good job of summarizing the destructive impact of the Trump administration’s policies toward immigrants. His assessment: we won’t be able to call ourselves a nation of immigrants much longer if Trump’s relentless and bigoted policies aren’t halted soon.

This is from Garcia’s roundup of what’s happening on the immigration front:

The Trump administration wants to slash the number of refugees allowed to resettle here to 18,000 next year. That’s about 20 percent of the target set by President Obama in 2016, and the lowest government cap since 1980.

Refugees are also being affected by a policy change that dramatically expands the government’s practice of returning asylum seekers who arrive at our border to Mexico to await court hearing dates. It used to be if you made a credible claim for asylum, you could be released to a sponsor – usually a family member in the U.S. – until your case wound its way through the system, a process that often takes years.

Already about 45,000 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico under the policy. Unless an appeals court rules otherwise, tens of thousands more asylum applicants could be sent to Mexico to live in conditions that are substandard, if not outright dangerous.

Reports have shown “that migrants sent back to Mexico under the policy have been robbed, kidnapped for ransom, raped, tortured and killed,” according to Vox.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have penned so called “safe third country” agreements with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that require migrants to seek asylum first there if they pass through one those countries on their way to the U.S. 

The plan is almost as heartless as it is absurd. Many of the 800,000 migrants who have been arrested at our border in the past year came from those three violence-ridden nations in the first place. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are all on the top ten list of countries with the world’s highest murder rates.

Legal immigration is also under assault. Read more

Commentary, immigration, Trump Administration

As Trump sets sights on the border wall, are North Carolinians willing to pay for it?

This is what happens when a preposterous campaign promise becomes an offensive reality.

No one outside of Donald Trump’s base particularly wanted the president’s expensive and ill-conceived border wall. It was, from the start, a promise made out of craven political opportunism, a bid to score points with rabid, red-meat, anti-immigrant neo-cons.

The question is: In 2019, with the news that it will cost North Carolina military bases about $80 million in new construction, does the wall still sell with Trump’s base, a population not likely to stomach military funding cuts? Indeed, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable wall?

The News & Observer explained Wednesday how the diverted funds could impact some high-profile plans for North Carolina bases:

The affected projects in North Carolina include $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, a previously canceled $32.9 million elementary school at Fort Bragg, and a $6.4 million storage facility for the new KC-46 tanker at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Those projects join cuts at a Florida base nearly destroyed by last year’s hurricane season, a new middle school for Kentucky’s Fort Campbell and a new fire station for a Marine Corps base in South Carolina.

In all, 34 installations in the United States and eight bases in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, will absorb $1.8 billion in domestic cuts to planned construction projects. Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, is losing more than $400 million in planned military construction projects.

That money will be shifted to help support 11 military construction projects to extend the border wall at locations in Texas, Arizona and California. Another $1.8 billion will be pulled from planned construction projects at bases overseas to also support the border wall construction.

The Pentagon said in a briefing Tuesday that it was justified in shifting the $3.6 billion total in military construction funds to pay for border wall construction because it had determined that the wall was necessary to support military operations along the border.

A senior defense official briefing reporters Wednesday said the only factors that were considered on whether to cut a project was whether it had an award date after fiscal year 2020, and that no barracks or family housing would be cut.

That meant that bases hit hardest by last year’s hurricane season, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were not spared. Tyndall will lose $17 million for a fire station.

But those are often projects that local leaders have spent years lobbying for in order to secure funding in the annual defense bill, and getting that funding is often seen as an important victory for elected leaders.

Asked how the Pentagon has explained to those local communities and leaders how the wall was a more important priority, the official didn’t answer directly but said that the hurricane-hit bases were already being repaired through supplemental hurricane funding. “We are committed to the rebuild of Tyndall,” the official said.

To get the projects back on track, however, the Pentagon will need Congress to backfill the funds, and Congress has not indicated it is willing to do that. “Conversations are ongoing with Congress,” the official said.

Only with Donald Trump do we hope campaign platitudes are just platitudes.

The Observer‘s editorial board followed through on Thursday, slamming U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for the news, and not only for his most extraordinary flip-floppery on Trump’s border wall earlier this year.

But also for his handling of the president’s apparently politically-motivated Tweet this week, which seemed to indicate erroneously that it was Tillis, and not Gov. Roy Cooper, who asked the president for an emergency declaration in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s arrival in the Carolinas.

This story has about a 24-hour shelf life, which is to say it’s a grotesquely unimportant tidbit during Dorian, but it does capture — in one neat little shell — how strange Washington, D.C. is these days.

Stay safe during the storm.

immigration, News

BREAKING NEWS: Governor Cooper vetoes controversial HB370 ICE detainer bill

Gov. Roy Cooper wasted little time in vetoing House Bill 370, “An Act to Require Compliance with Immigration Detainers and Administrative Warrants.”

The House gave the measure final approval Tuesday on a 62-53 vote, with proponents saying the bill was necessary to aid law enforcement in protecting public safety.

But more than 100 national and state organizations joined together to call the bill dangerous, noting that it would tear apart families and strip local law enforcement of their ability to make decisions in the best interest of the public.

Governor Cooper released the following statement in issuing Wednesday’s veto:

“This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina. As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status.

This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties. Finally, to elevate their partisan political pandering, the legislature has made a sheriff’s violation of this new immigration duty as the only specifically named duty violation that can result in a sheriff’s removal from office.”

immigration, News

Legislature sends immigration bill to Cooper; scores of nonprofits and businesses call for veto

The state House of Representatives gave final approval this afternoon to legislation that would force local sheriffs to hold individuals that they would otherwise release, based on “detainer” requests from federal immigration officials. The House vote was 62-53.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to aid law enforcement in protecting public safety, but opponents have argued forcefully that it will have the opposite effect. After the bill passed the ACLU of North Carolina released a statement calling on Gov. Cooper to veto the measure accompanied by endorsements from scores of national and state-level nonprofits and state-based businesses.

RALEIGH – More than 70 national organizations, 40 North Carolina groups, and 80 North Carolina businesses are urging Governor Roy Cooper to veto a bill that would force all North Carolina county sheriffs to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining and deporting community members or face removal from office.

In separate letters, the organizations say the bill would harm North Carolinians by spreading fear within immigrant communities, further accelerating the federal government’s deportation machine, and subverting the will of the voters.

House Bill 370, which has been approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, would require county jails to comply with a request from federal immigration officers to hold someone in jail, even if they are eligible for release under North Carolina law. So-called “ICE detainer requests” often lack probable cause and can lead to the prolonged detention of people without a court order, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

“By vetoing this brazen attack on North Carolina’s sheriffs and voters who have made it clear they do not want ICE terrorizing their communities, Governor Cooper can send an important message that he supports both local law enforcement and the rights of all communities,” said Susanna Birdsong, Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, one of the groups urging Cooper to veto. “This dangerous bill strips local law enforcement of their ability to make decisions in the best interest of public safety, forcing every county in North Carolina to divert resources to do the bidding of President Trump’s deportation force whether they want to or not. Governor Cooper should put a stop to this extreme agenda, stand up for local law enforcement, and veto this bill without delay.”

In a separate letter to Cooper, the ACLU of North Carolina explained the constitutional concerns with requiring sheriffs to unconditionally comply with all detainer requests received from ICE, whose history presents a troubling pattern of illegal arrests.

Last year, voters in North Carolina’s two largest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake – elected sheriffs who campaigned on promises, now fulfilled, to end their involvement in the federal 287(g) program, a partnership with federal immigration officers that has led to the deportation of thousands from North Carolina. Newly elected sheriffs in Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford, and Durham counties have also announced that they will no longer hold people in jail on ICE detainer requests.

“If Governor Cooper allows this anti-immigrant bill to become law, it will spread more fear across our communities, tear apart families, and force local governments to divert resources to fuel the Trump administration’s deportation pipeline,” said Martha Hernandez, community organizer with Comite de Accion Popular. “It’s important that our state’s highest elected official take a stand for the rights of North Carolina communities and against this extreme anti-immigrant political agenda.”

The full list of groups signing each letter is: Read more

Commentary, immigration, Trump Administration

Trump administration’s dark immigration policy objectives are having their desired effect

In case you missed it this past weekend, The New York Times Magazine published an in-depth look at the current Department of Homeland Security, which, under Trump, has transformed from an agency with a wide range of missions into one that focuses solely on border control and enforcement.

Reportedly, at a Cabinet meeting in early 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that to solve the immigration crisis, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen just needed to “stop letting people into the country.” Trump has seized on this idea and refuses to move away from it, despite Nielsen attempting to explain that the United States could not legally turn away someone requesting asylum at the border.

From his Muslim ban in his first week of office to the extreme “zero-tolerance” policy that led to family separation and abysmal conditions at detention centers at the border, Trump has exhibited a laser focus on toughening up immigration policy in the U.S. As the article reports:

“Supporting Trump in all this are a group of immigration restrictionists — officials and advisers who have single-mindedly pursued a policy of not just cracking down on illegal border-crossing, in the manner of conventional immigration hawks, but also limiting all immigration to the best of their ability. Chief among them is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller.”

Miller has encouraged Trump’s most extreme tendencies, and the article outlines how his ideas most often won out in the White House. “Increased internal enforcement,” or the policy of directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest and deport all undocumented immigrants living anywhere in the United States, was Miller’s idea.

The article ends on a grim note: As moderates are getting frustrated and leaving DHS, the ideas of the most extreme immigration restrictionists, like Miller, are rising to the top. DHS is now almost fully staffed by extremists.

Earlier this month, Raul Pinto an attorney in the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center (parent organization to NC Policy Watch) authored an op-ed in which he encouraged North Carolinians not to see the workings of the federal Department of Homeland Security as separate from the conditions within North Carolina, where the legislature is attempting to pass anti-immigrant bills such as House Bills 370 and 135. As Pinto pointed out:

“This administration’s chosen tool to address immigration is fear, whether at the border or in our communities. Read more