The Trump Administration Is Trying to Make One Million Immigrants Deportable

Throughout the past 16 months, the Trump administration has slowly chipped away or outright killed protections that have allowed some immigrants to live in the U.S. and legally work, some for as long as two decades now. During the past two weeks alone, the administration announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 70,000 immigrants from Honduras and Nepal, joining El Salvador, Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua, and Sudan. In September, Trump also rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving the lives of 700,000 young immigrants in limbo. Altogether, these affected groups add up to more than one million immigrants who could soon be at risk of deportation, despite many knowing no other place but the U.S. as their home:

If they stay without authorization, TPS and DACA recipients could be caught up in a deportation system that is increasingly sweeping up people without criminal records. The Trump administration has said repeatedly that no one is exempt from enforcement and that it won’t look the other way if it finds another undocumented immigrant while looking for one of its targets. About 17 percent of the people deported from the interior of the country last year were noncriminals, a massive jump from the year before, when people without criminal convictions made up 8 percent of the removals from the interior.

Because TPS and DACA recipients are already among the most vetted immigrants in the U.S., the clearly logical step would be to allow immigrants who have already been living and working here with the government’s permission to be able to access a path to legalization. But this is an illogical—and racist—administration, and Donald Trump, along with white supremacist adviser Stephen Miller, have steadily sabotaged numerous bipartisan efforts that would permanently protect them. Instead, he’s creating new classes of immigrants to deport. “The jig was up after his comments about shithole countries,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and leader with immigrant youth-led group United We Dream. “There’s no mincing of his words, and that’s why we’re not mincing ours. He’s not only anti-immigrant, but he’s a threat to people of color in this country.”

For tens of thousands of TPS recipients, the administration has ended protections despite clear evidence that conditions in these countries have not improved. In Haiti’s case, “there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary, including ‘deep concern’ among Haitian officials about the termination of TPS, CNN reported. What’s more, Trump’s vehemently anti-immigrant administration contradicted its own staff’s assessment of Haiti”:

Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar, said Nielsen’s decision to terminate TPS for Nepal is “not just wrong, but immoral.”

It is clear that in the three years since the earthquake, Nepal is still very much in recovery mode. Less than 13.3 percent of the homes affected have been rebuilt. Yes, the country is functioning but that is in part as a result of TPS holders sending money back home to rebuild,” Khati Benjamin said in a statement. “Canceling TPS adds to the immigration crisis our country is suffocating under as a result of our political leaders’ inability to address immigration reform.

“A lot of people say things like, ‘TPS was supposed to be temporary.’ But for past administrations, this wasn’t an issue,” Osorio Hanzman, Honduran TPS recipient, told Rewire. “Obama automatically extended TPS every time and even for Bush, [TPS] wasn’t an issue. TPS used to need to be extended every year; Bush changed it to 18 months, giving us even more time. A lot of people also ask me why I haven’t tried to become a citizen. Many Americans just don’t understand immigration laws.” And it’s true. For the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, there is no line to get into:

As Center for Community Change’s Thomas Kennedy writes, the U.S. offers few and extremely narrow routes for people outside the U.S. seeking to gain residency here: “employment, family reunification or humanitarian protection. All three of these categories are highly regulated with limits on the number of people who can obtain the status.” And none of these categories are feasible for undocumented immigrants already here.

The fact is that for undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for years and have minors who cannot sponsor them for years to come—“the child must first be 21 years of age or older, and the undocumented parent would still have to get into the long family-based immigration lines,” notes America’s Voicethere are no options. Even marriage to a U.S. citizen doesn’t guarantee anything.

Trump has also taken a wrecking ball to America’s image as a beacon of hope for refugees, asylum-seekers, and other vulnerable populations. When a group of Central American families fleeing violence and political unrest trekked thousands of miles to the U.S. border to petition for asylum, Trump attacked them as dangerous invaders, tweeting that he had “instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country.” This would be breaking the law. When it comes to refugee admissions, it’s also a bleak story:

Refugee admissions in general have dropped dramatically, all while the world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with many people displaced by wars that the U.S. plays a role in. In Trump’s first year in office, the U.S. admitted 53,700 refugees, down from 85,000 the year before and less than half of the number set for the year by former President Barack Obama before he left office.

This fiscal year, the numbers are even more stark. The U.S. admitted only 10,500 refugees in the first six months, which means it’s unlikely to even reach the ceiling of 45,000 set for the year ― which was already 10,000 less than the previous year, and 40,000 less than the one before that.

There has been some progress on reversing Trump’s mass deportation actions. Several judges have now ordered the administration to resume taking DACA renewals, but with the future of DACA continuing to play out in court, immigrant youth are still living in uncertainty. Numerous bipartisan legislators have also introduced legislation that would put TPS recipients on a path to legalization, but the Republican-led Congress refuses to take it up. Indeed, every election is important, but as 2018 and 2020 approach, immigrant lives living under a mass deportation agenda hang in the balance. “This is our home,” Martinez Rosas told the Huffington Post. “We’re going to fight as much as possible to stay here.”

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