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Immigration Updates


Recent Executive Orders on Immigration

This week has been crazy for immigration law.  Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard of the three executive orders signed by President Trump regarding immigration in the last week.  Here's a quick breakdown of what they mean for immigrants. 

On Friday, President Trump signed an order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  This order is what has been referred to as the "Muslim Ban" over the weekend.  Here's what it did: 

  • Indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States

  • Suspended all refugees from any country from entering the United States for 120 days

  • Suspended all citizens, refugees or otherwise, from 7 predominately Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Sudan) from entering the United States for 90 days

    • Trump has since loosened this to allow US permanent residents (green card holders) from these countries to enter

Last Wednesday, President Trump signed a different executive order, this one titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States."  This order addressed deportation of "criminal aliens".  Here are the high points: 

  • Under President Obama, only those undocumented immigrants with significant criminal convictions, or those who had entered the United States within the last couple of years, were considered a priority for removal (deportation)

  • Under this new Executive Order, any undocumented immigrant with any criminal conviction, pending criminal charges, or even anyone who has been suspected of committing criminal activity is considered a removal priority

Also on Wednesday, President Trump signed an order titled "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements."  This order: 

  • Calls for the addition of 5,000 border patrol agents

  • Calls for the construction of the "border wall"

  • Calls for the end of the "catch and release" policy, which means that immigrants are released on their own recognizance after a brief detention at the border and informed of a court hearing at a later date. Trump's plan would detain all immigrants attempting to enter the country indefinitely.


I also wanted to get an additional perspective on this issue, so I solicited a guest blog post from an awesome Elon Law student! Pahola Burgos is a second year student at Elon University School of Law.  She received her B.A. from UNC Greensboro, where she majored in English and Spanish.  Pahola is a second generation immigrant and her experiences served to fuel her passion to help immigrants from all over the world.  Before going to law school, she served in the AmeriCorps ACCES and worked as the volunteer coordinator for CWS: Immigration and Refugee Program.  She would describe this as one of the most eye opening experiences as it gave her the opportunity to hear stories from refugees who had to flee their country in order to stay alive.  Her time in the AmeriCorps showed her that giving back to the community is one of the most rewarding activities you can do.  She currently serves on the Pro Bono Board and is the Vice-President of the Spanish and Latino Student Association at Elon.  When not in school mode, she loves to travel and try new foods! Below is Pahola's statement on the recent change in immigration policy.  

Donald Trump signed two executive orders on January 25, 2017. These orders have created stress and worry among the immigrant and refugee communities. The executive orders call for a wall on the Mexican border, the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, and the
restriction of federal funding from any jurisdiction that declares itself a sanctuary city for immigrants.

Unfortunately, xenophobia is nothing new in the United States and with these orders, the already
enlarged anti-immigrant sentiment can only continue to grow. These executive orders have
painted all immigrants as being criminals and/or a threat to the wellbeing of the United States.

They indicate that “aliens who illegally enter the United States . . . present a significant threat to
national security and public safety.” They also direct the Department of Homeland Security to
“make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.” However, according
to the U.S. Department of Justice, only five percent of those individuals detained in state and
federal prisons are noncitizens. Admittedly, there are immigrants that commit crimes, but
criminals do not only exist in this group of people. Criminals exist in all shapes, colors and sizes.
So why should those people’s actions be representative of me, my family and friends? We mightall share the fact that we are immigrants but their actions do not define an entire group in the
same way Dylann Roof’s actions do not define the entire Caucasian race—we cannot generalize.

The executive orders also state that “the recent surge of illegal immigration . . . has placed a
significant strain on federal resources.” However, according to recent reports by the new Center
for Migration Studies, the illegal immigrant population in the United States has decreased over the last decade. Furthermore, it remains unclear what federal resources undocumented
immigrants are using up. But allow me to state a very important fact: undocumented immigrants
are not eligible to receive any type of federal public assistance or health care. Additionally, the
U.S department of Revenue provides illegal immigrants with a number similar to a social
security, called an ITIN. This number is issued so that they can pay taxes, but they remain
unqualified to receive any of the benefits they have paid into. Sad, but true! What does seem to
soon be putting a strain on federal resources is the $15 billion wall that an executive order calls
for. A wall which the American taxpayer’s money is going to be covering. Although Trump
claims that Mexico will pay for the wall in other ways, it is impossible for U.S. citizens to be
immune to the consequences. A current proposed solution is that Mexico will be charged a 20
percent importation tax in order to be reimbursed. But as you may know, Mexico exports various
items ranging from vegetables, wine, beer, fruits, and automobiles among others. An additional
tax on importations means higher costs…. And can you guess who will ultimately pay for that?
The American consumer. Anyone like guacamole with their tacos and margaritas?

These executive orders are especially worrisome because they do not distinguish between those
who are living honorable and productive lives in the United States and those who are not. It
simply generalizes and creates a higher sense of discrimination against anyone who looks
different. One executive order gives any law enforcement individual the ability to “apprehend
on suspicion of violating Federal or State law.” What does this mean? It means that a person who does not fit the “United States citizen look”, could be detained until their immigration status is verified—and who knows how long that can take! Basically, this order allows lawenforcement to profile individuals without proper cause. This becomes a very dangerous practiceas it tampers with the fundamental rights of any person in the United States.

Seeing the reaction (or lack thereof) of many has been a very painful experience. Many don’t
care because it does not affect them directly. People talk. People judge. People condemn. What
people don’t do is sympathize with the cruel realities of the life of an immigrant. Most people
don’t have to worry about their husband, wife, father, brother, mother, or sister being detained
and deported, and don’t realize what a privilege that is. Unfortunately, now, under these orders,
all it takes is for an officer to suspect you are “violating federal law” (a.k.a. to suspect that you
are an undocumented immigrant) to stop you and rip you away from your family without even
getting to say “goodbye”. Perhaps, before we say “this is the way it should be,” or “they should
have come here the legal way,” we can try to remember that for many, being here was a matter
of life or death. Immigrants leave it all behind in hopes of escaping a cruel reality. They come
with their hearts filled with the same emotions ours feel: love for our families and the desire to
see our children grow up safely and with the chance of a tomorrow. If we can rid ourselves of
these ideas that “it is not me”, “it’s not my problem”, and “they deserve it for not doing it the
right way”, maybe then we will be able to see, that just like us, these are humans that bleed red
blood and suffer the same pains. If we took the time to understand then we could see that these
new policies, cripple our country and destroy our friends and neighbors thus ripping the fabric of
our beloved America.

These are scary times.  If you or a loved one has any immigration questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

Holly WilcoxComment