President Trump took his campaign for a wall to the US-Mexico border this week, hoping to drum up support for a $5.7 billion barrier while some federal workers struggle to survive without pay because of the government shutdown. Earlier, the president denied that he ever said Mexico would “write a check” to pay for the wall, which was a cornerstone of his campaign. Trump has also said the barrier could be built out of steel slats instead of concrete. In this podcast, Tamara Keith of NPR examines the history of Trump’s wall and how his statements sometimes contradict each other.
While President Trump and Congress continue to wrestle over the $5 billion the administration wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, filmmaker David Freid noticed something was missing: no one was talking to the people who actually live there. So, Freid went to Big Bend National Park, which contains 13 percent of the US-Mexico border. Once there, he talked to Mike Davidson, the captain of the only international ferry operating on the Rio Grande river. According to The Atlantic:
Freid’s short documentary Ferryman at the Wall is the story of two countries that, for the most part, peacefully coexist where it matters most: at the dividing line. “When there’s a fire in Big Bend National Park, residents from Boquillas, Mexico, come up to help fight it,” Freid said. Davidson, an American, has homes in both Texas and Mexico; he speaks Spanish and English fluently. Freid found that this cultural melding was commonplace in the towns adjacent to Big Bend.“There isn’t just a straight line where one country ends and the other begins,” Freid said. “People’s family and friends extend in both directions. The land on either side of the Rio Grande is identical, and the people are close to identical as well. The two countries bleed into each other.” Thanks to The Atlantic for making this video available.
While the Trump administration scrambles to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents at the border, it is taking other measures to change the existing legal immigration system. In this podcast from NPR, New York immigration lawyer Cheryl David talks about how the immigration process has been changed by the Trump administration:
The president has signed numerous executive orders in the name of national security safety – the other notion of buy American, hire American. So everything is, you know, vetted more strongly than it was before, probably unnecessarily because we had some very good procedures in place. In October of 2017, the administration had indicated that we are now going to have to interview every applicant applying for a green card. So previously, employment-based cases, for the most part, weren’t interviewed. Now they’re in the queue for interviewing. So that’s set family-based immigration back tremendously.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today to try to stem criticism of his family separation policy. He has offered an unacceptable alternative: imprisoning mothers and fathers with their children. The president is also asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request that a court modify and effectively dismantle the Flores settlement. That settlement protects children held by the government and sets forth standards of care. The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council: “Today’s executive order does nothing to change the fact that the Trump administration is attacking families and criminalizing asylum seekers. The zero-tolerance policy is cruel and unnecessary. We should not have to choose between separating parents from their children and expanding the shameful practice of imprisoning families. Our experience defending families in detention, first in Artesia, New Mexico and now in Dilley, Texas, has taught us that family detention is never humane.”
Leila Fajardo-Giles was scheduled to receive her law degree from Suffolk University Law School this week, but she’s already chosen the path she’ll be focusing on in her new legal career: immigration. Fajardo-Giles is a dreamer, one of the hundreds of thousands of young people whose future remains cloudy because of the ongoing legal and political battles regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by the Obama administration that is under siege from his successor. During her last year at Suffolk, Fajardo-Giles got some valuable experience working for the university’s immigration clinic, and helped a teenager gain asylum status. Read more about her ambitious plans at The Boston Globe.
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that there would be “NO MORE DACA DEAL” and blamed the failure on Democrats. At CNN, attorney Raul Reyes writes that Trump is ignorant of the nation’s immigration laws, pointing out that it was Trump himself who ended DACA in September of last year. Reyes says there has never been any realistic chance that a DACA deal could be struck. Read more about Reyes’ opinion at CNN. The Washington Post also has analysis of Trump’s threats to DACA and how it reflects his presidency.
While a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress aims to address two of the more pressing issues on immigration, a path to citizenship for ‘dreamers’ and spending more on border security along the Mexican border with the US, the proposal may not have a good chance of getting President Trump’s signature. If Washington is unable to agree on a solution to the expiration of the DACA program in March, one immigration advocate is calling on cities, counties and states to find the courage to stand up to the Trump administration’s tougher policies and actions on immigration. Juan Escalante says with some states like Florida considering their own stricter immigration legislation, more states need to step up on behalf of dreamers like New York, New Jersey and California. You can read more in Escalante’s column at HuffPost.
The Trump administration says it will bring an end to the provisional residency status of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the US since at least 2001, according to the Washington Post. The move means the Salvadorans will now face deportation unless they meet a September 2019 deadline to either leave the country or find a way to obtain a green card. It’s the latest step by the Trump administration to limit the number of immigrants living in the US, either by limiting the number allowed to enter the country or by forcing those without legal status to leave. The Salvadorans affected by the move had been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after earthquakes ravaged the South American country in 2001.
An editorial at The Washington Post points out that “the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants in the United States have no criminal record.” But that hasn’t slowed the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who are rounding up “not just criminal undocumented immigrants, but law-abiding ones as well.” Of the approximately 143,000 immigrants arrested by ICE in the past year, more than 25% had no criminal convictions. Most were guilty of non-violent crimes. The Post‘s Editorial Board examines the issues legal immigrants face in this editorial.