Trump immigration proposals raise concern amid reports of bullying at schools
The U.S. immigration system is a tangled web of paperwork and bureaucracies, and it can take a decade for a person to gain coveted citizenship status. For an undocumented person whose spouse is a U.S. citizen, it can take a raft of forms up to 50 pages long to become a legal citizen, and even then his or her application can be rejected.
So if it’s already a difficult and uncertain process, the election of Republican Donald Trump has made it doubly so; during his campaign, he promised to deport millions, build a wall on the Mexican border (and get Mexico to pay for it) and roll back President Obama’s executive actions that ease the immigration process for some groups.
During the presidential campaign, those pledges were a cause of deep concern for many immigrants and advocacy groups. And if those fears were rising, they’ve now reached a fever pitch.
Karin Mitchell, a Silverthorne resident, said some Hispanic parents were now worried about their kids’ ability to go to college, and that immediately after the election there were reports of kids at Summit County schools being taunted about getting deported.
“I think it’s scary right now, and I’m worried about kids as young as third grade coming to school crying about whether or not their friends are going to be deported.”
Mitchell and Summit County Moms —a local Facebook group — are organizing a peace rally at Frisco Elementary on Saturday at 10 a.m. to foster unity and show “we value our kids and we want to make sure that everyone feels included,” according to a description of the event on Facebook.
Julie McCluskie, director of communications for the Summit School District, said that like the immediate aftermath of many national elections, there has been some anxiety going around. The district itself, however, has not received reports of bullying from parents.
“The predominant concern from students and families was more about fear about President-elect Trump’s immigration policies,” she said.
On the day after the election, the district sent an open letter to families (in both English and Spanish) emphasizing its commitment to promoting a “healthy and positive student climate” and addressing any bullying issues.
Impending changes to immigration policy have also been a source of added anxiety for clients of Judy Phillips, who provides help navigating the system to immigrants in Summit County through the nonprofit Bethany Immigration. She and her partner, Sarah Christy, started the Board of Immigration Appeals-certified nonprofit in July of last year and have served around 70 clients.
Bethany, based in Frisco, helps immigrants understand their options and put together applications for permanent residency, citizenship and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) benefits, which give temporary legal status to undocumented people who arrived in the county as children.
How those programs, and Bethany Immigration itself, will be changed is anyone’s guess, said Phillips.
“Immigrants here are vital to our workforce and tourist-driven economy,” she said. “Without them we’d be crippled. But because they live in fear, they are more limited. They are often underserved and underpaid and live isolated lives by themselves because they are afraid.”
Commentators have speculated that the talks of walls and detention camps may have been campaign bluster, but regardless how he chooses to wield it, President-elect Trump will have considerable power over how immigration laws are enforced.
The laws haven’t changed much for decades thanks to Washington gridlock, but Obama’s piecemeal, administrative actions — like DACA — have shifted the immigration landscape. He also directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to focus enforcement on criminals rather than families.
“Day One, my first hour in office, those people are gone,” Trump was quoted as saying in the Washington Post in reference to illegal immigrants with criminal records. “And you can call it deported if you want. The press doesn’t like that term. You can call it whatever the hell you want. They’re gone.”
So while the enforcement emphasis won’t necessarily change, Trump has promised to expand the pace rapidly by tripling the number of ICE agents, which currently stands at roughly 7,000. He has also said he would expand the number of detention centers on the Mexican border, where he plans to build his fabled wall.
Those proposals would be costly, perhaps prohibitively so. They would also require the approval of Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has been lukewarm at best on some of Mr. Trump’s more radical immigration proposals, the wall among them.
What could change on day one with the stroke of a pen, however, is DACA. The program, which has approved applications from well over one million immigrants, exists only as a policy memo sent out by the former homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, at the direction of President Obama. That could go away on day one of the Trump presidency and with it the legal status, scholarships and jobs of so-called “Dreamers,” or children brought here illegally who aspire to citizenship.
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