Guest opinion: How to help the Latino immigrant community
Last Sunday, President-elect Trump reiterated that he plans to deport 2 million, maybe 3 million undocumented immigrants and build a border wall. Latino immigrants in our valley are alarmed at the prospect of renewed enforcement of our deportation laws. Many citizens want to know what they can do to prevent long-term, law-abiding, but undocumented immigrants from being deported.
The first thing to understand is that we have enjoyed the most relaxed immigration enforcement environment in an era. Since Nov. 20, 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has observed enforcement guidance limiting enforcement to immigrants with felony convictions, recent deportation orders and “significant misdemeanors,” such as DUIs.
In other words, a Latino father and breadwinner with no criminal history who had been deported in 2011 and who returned to United States to support his family in 2012 has been safe from the clutches of ICE. ICE deportations continue to decline this year and are on pace to be the lowest since 2006.
The immigration enforcement environment will change for the worse under President Trump.
You can help in the following ways: First, make it clear to your elected leaders and police chief or sheriff that you do not want your police to assist ICE in moving against law-abiding immigrants. Local police have no authority to enforce immigration laws, and, when they get in bed with ICE, bad things happen.
Second, schools, hospitals, churches, weddings and public demonstrations are off limits to ICE. Report ICE officers you see at these facilities or functions. You can make a complaint about ICE activity by emailing Homeland Security’s Joint Intake Center at email@example.com or calling 877-246-8253.
Third, when undocumented workers are arrested by ICE, you can assist by helping them post an immigration bond and supporting the worker in immigration court. You can continue to help immigrants in immigration court by attending and testifying at court hearings and by writing reference letters.
As president, Mr. Trump cannot change the normal, family-based immigration system, which has been in the law since 1952. In other words, a citizen or permanent resident spouse will still be able to immigrate his or her spouse. A 21-year-old U.S. citizen child will be able to immigrate his or parents (if they are fortunate enough to be entitled to fix their papers in the United States). U visas will still be available for victims of domestic violence and other qualifying crimes. You can encourage immigrants who can take advantage of current law to go for an immigration benefit.
The problem, of course, is that the lion’s share of undocumented immigrants have no way to petition for permanent residence, let alone citizenship.
During the campaign, President-elect Trump committed himself to ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were young and who were educated in American schools. Under DACA, they have received work authorization cards in two-year increments. Many are doing great things at work and in college. They are likely to be out on the streets after Mr. Trump’s first day.
If you employ DACA kids, write to Colorado’s senators and President-elect Trump and tell them how valuable they are. And tell them it is just plain crazy to educate a youngster for 12 years and then deport him or her.
Ted Hess is a Glenwood Springs attorney. He can be reached at 970-945-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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