Using his newly-acquired executive fiat, President Donald Trump Jan. 25 declared he will withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” which provide protection from deportation to the nation’s 11 million undocumented residents, and reauthorized the “Secure Communities” program.
The Secure Communities program mandates local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Under the aegis of the program, police have the authorization to ask for proof of residency from anyone they interact with. That information is then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine whether the person has committed a deportable offense.
Sanctuary cities are those that have stated they will not participate in the Secure Communities program, and provide protection from deportation to undocumented residents within their jurisdiction. Trump has pledged to strip federal dollars from sanctuary cities.
Currently, more than 450,000 Indians living in the U.S. are undocumented, according to South Asian Americans Leading Together.
Vichal Kumar, president of the South American Bar Association, told India-West that Trump’s re-focus on Secure Communities has enormous impact on the Indian American community’s legal and undocumented residents. He noted that the program has been criticized for racial profiling, as law enforcement officials can pick up anyone they suspect of being undocumented.
Legal permanent residents can also be deported if they have committed an aggravated felony, or a crime of moral turpitude, which is vaguely defined, said Kumar. Laws vary from state to state, but in New York, for example, evading a subway fare would potentially make a legal resident deportable, he said. In other states, a traffic violation could lead to the deportation of a legal resident, said Kumar.
ICE has arrested more than 3,600 U.S. citizens through the program. Kumar advised legal residents to carry their green cards. Undocumented residents will live in fear of any type of interaction with police and are unlikely to seek help from law enforcement when needed, he said.
“Regardless of whether the program is put in place right now, people are fearful again,” Kumar told India-West.
In a joint press release issued Jan. 26 by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and SABA, the organizations noted that Trump’s “xenophobic executive orders” target people of color and encourage racial and religious profiling of Muslims and Sikhs, among others.
“The president’s actions demonize and stigmatize groups of people and further the divisions in our country, while reinforcing the fear and distrust permeating our communities,” stated Kumar in the press release. “With the stroke of a pen, these divisive actions have caused grave uncertainty, shock and grief amongst our most vulnerable. We must continue to provide safety and security for our communities and not allow these divisive actions to further tear us part.”
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” stated Trump in the executive order. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” he said.
Lakshmi Sridaran, director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT, told India-West: “For the first time, we are seeing an impact throughout the entire spectrum of our immigration system,” she said.
“Everyone is under suspicion,” stated Sridharan, echoing Kumar’s statements on racial profiling. “It is a recipe for disaster,” she said, reinforcing the fact that law enforcement can ask for proof of residency from legal and undocumented residents.
“Essentially, the police officer in a local community cannot just walk up to you and ask for your papers, but they can arrest you for something and then send your biometric data to DHS or ICE, who will then run your information through a database to determine if you are here legally,” she clarified.
"Today's executive orders push the nation further away from core American values of equality and freedom, sow fear in communities of color that already face increasing violence, hostility and attacks, and make us and the country less safe — all under the guise of national security," stated Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT, in a press statement.
Approximately 300 jurisdictions across the country have designated themselves as sanctuary cities. California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Colorado are all sanctuary states.
California Governor Jerry Brown rebuked Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, during his State of the State address Jan. 24. “In California, immigrants are an integral part of who we are and what we've become. They have helped create the wealth and dynamism of this state from the very beginning,” said the governor.
“I recognize that under the Constitution, federal law is supreme and that Washington determines immigration policy. But as a state we can and have had a role to play. California has enacted several protective measures for the undocumented: The Trust Act, lawful driver's licenses, basic employment rights and non-discriminatory access to higher education.”
“We may be called upon to defend those laws and defend them we will. And let me be clear: we will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state,” said Brown.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, said in a press statement: “Because of these executive orders, our nation is now less safe: immigrants will report fewer crimes, more families will live in fear, and our communities and local economies will suffer.”
“California has an outsized stake in this fight. No state has more immigrants than we do – both documented and undocumented. I intend to continue fighting back aggressively and speaking up for the vulnerable communities that are being attacked by this administration,” she said.
California receives about $54 billion in federal aid, and has an annual budget of $170 billion. San Francisco, one of the largest sanctuary cities in the nation, receives about $480 million in federal aid, and has a $9 billion budget. Los Angeles, another large sanctuary city, has an $8.7 billion budget and receives $466 million in federal funding.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s Los Angeles chapter held a press conference Jan. 26, decrying the president’s action.
“We are deeply troubled by the direction of our country and this administration's apparent desire to appease his anti-immigrant and white supremacist supporters,” said the organization in a press statement.
“President Trump lost the popular vote; further, Asian American voters overwhelmingly did not vote for Trump. His election did not give him a mandate on immigration. As we saw this past weekend during the largest one-day protest in this nation’s history, the majority of Americans are with us in welcoming immigrants and refugees and oppose the targeting of Muslims or people based on their national origin and harsh immigration enforcement policies,” noted the organization, adding: “Asian Americans Advancing Justice will use every means necessary to defend sanctuary cities and oppose these shameful executive orders.”