President-elect Donald Trump has promised a new level of repression against undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 70% of whom are Mexican and Central American. Throughout his campaign for president, Trump has targeted Mexican immigrants with racist attacks, calling them drug dealers, criminals and rapists. His new “Contract with the American Voter” describing his 100-day action plan follows through his campaign promises.
First of all, Trump has promised to end the DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Under this program, some 750,000 undocumented who were brought to the U.S. as children have been able to work, get drivers licenses and get relief from the fear of deportation. This program has dramatically improved the job opportunities and income for undocumented young people. While Trump has not said if and when he would deport these youth, since the government has their information, they will still be losing their jobs and drivers licenses, driving them back into the shadows of society.
Secondly, Trump promised to remove some 2 to 3 million undocumented with criminal convictions. In fact, the actual number is much lower, and studies have shown that immigrants are much less likely to be convicted of crimes than American-born. As was the case with the Obama administration, which also said that it was focusing on deporting criminal undocumented, it is likely that many other undocumented people will be deported in this dragnet.
While not mentioned specifically by Trump, odds are that his administration will ramp up ICE raids on workplaces. The Trump administration could claim that undocumented workers are ‘criminal’ and workplace raids would fit into their story that immigrants are ‘taking jobs’ from the native born, and would be a public way to fan up feelings against immigrants.
Third, Trump will begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico. While Trump has backtracked a bit, admitting that parts of it will just be a fence, a wall will be just the most visible symbol of increased militarization of the border. Building a wall will also go hand in hand with his promised to build more infrastructure, and starting work will be photo-op for him, whether or not the wall will be completed.
Fourth, Trump promises to work with Congress to increase mandatory minimum sentences for undocumented people who are caught back in the U.S. after being deported. This is just part of a broader effort to criminalize the undocumented, who will then fall under the group of undocumented targeted to be deported. It will work to draw more state and local police into immigration enforcement by making it criminal matter.
Fifth, Trump has pledged to cut off all federal funding to sanctuary cities. There are about 30 cities in the U.S., including the country’s largest (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles), that have banned city workers and police from enforcing federal immigration policies. The impact of this remains to be seen, as relatively little federal funding goes directly to cities, the vast majority of federal transfers goes to state governments for health care (Medicaid), income support (TANF or welfare, SSI or Supplemental Security Income), and transportation. There is also federal aid to education, but this goes to school districts and colleges, not cities.
Sixth and last, Trump says that he will suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. This is likely to be applied arbitrarily depending on which countries that the Trump administration wants to target. The fact of the matter is that refugees from countries such as Syria already go through a more than year-long process of vetting.
Trump’s immigration program has many similarities to the 2005 House Bill 4437, known as the Sensenbrenner bill. This bill, like Trump, proposed to criminalize the undocumented and build a fence along the border. More than a million people hit the streets on May 1, 2006 in protest of this bill and support legalization for the undocumented, in demonstrations from coast to coast. Students walked out of school, workers left their jobs, and families of all ages from grandparents to babies in strollers came out to protest. The protests were overwhelmingly Chicano, Mexicano and Latino, with the largest marches in Chicago, Los Angeles and San José, California. In many cities, such as here in San José, where more than 125,000 marched on May 1, the protests were the largest ever for the cities involved.
The movement in 2006 was able to beat back the Sensenbrenner bill which had passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. We need a mighty people’s movement to protest Trump on day one, inauguration day, January 20, 2017, and even more to turn out a hundred days later on May 1, 2017.
Legalization, not Deportations!
No Wall on the Border with Mexico!