How bad will Trump’s mass deportations get? – By Greg Sargent


Over the weekend, two memos signed by new Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were leaked to the media, revealing plans to dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants who will be targeted for deportation under President Trump. Though the memos are not yet official policy, they suggest Trump’s vow of mass deportations could, in some form, soon become a reality.

But buried in the memos is a separate provision that is worthy of attention on its own. That provision, immigration lawyers tell me, raises the possibility that under Trump, enforcement officers will have an easier time than under President Obama of arresting undocumented immigrants who are in schools or hospitals or are seeking sanctuary in churches.

This would be politically explosive if it came to pass, and a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security just told me that the Obama-era protection of people in such venues will remain in place.

DHS to raise the bar for undocumented immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security drafted new guidelines that would speed up deportations and make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum. The agency plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants prioritized for deportation and enlist the help of local law enforcement. (Reuters)

But immigration and civil rights lawyers tell me they still want to see a much firmer assurance to this effect once DHS formally announces the new deportation policies. And they say fears are already circulating in immigration communities that these protections will not meaningfully exist under Trump.

The worry arises from a line in one of the newly leaked memos stating that “all existing” Homeland Security “memoranda or field guidance” regarding enforcement “are hereby immediately rescinded,” with a few exceptions. What this means is that the Obama DHS memos implementing his enforcement priorities — in which longtime residents and low-level offenders were deprioritized for removal, focusing enforcement resources on criminals and recent border-crossers — are getting scrapped. This is in keeping with Trump’s recently released executive order doing the same and is the basis for the belief that a much bigger pool of undocumented immigrants will now be targeted for removal, meaning mass deportations are coming.

One undocumented woman’s solution to deportation? Seeking sanctuary in a church.

Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, is under a deportation order and was supposed to check in with authorities on February 15. Instead, the mother of four and immigration activist is seeking sanctuary 15 miles away in the basement of First Unitarian Society of Denver. She plans to remain there indefinitely. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

But this line could also mean something else: If all previous Obama DHS memos are rescinded, this would theoretically include another Obama-era memo, one that protects undocumented immigrants in places such as schools and churches. That memo is known as the “sensitive locations memo,” and it establishes that enforcement actions will not take place in “sensitive locations” such as schools, hospitals and places of worship, without express consent from agency supervisors, and must be exercised with excessive care. It was most recently affirmed under Obama in a 2016 version, and advocates say this is necessary to ensure a fundamental humanitarian commitment: that undocumented immigrants can attend school or places of worship or seek needed medical care.

“The new memo raises the question of whether DHS will abandon or narrow the sensitive locations policy,” Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, tells me. “For decades, immigration enforcement has refrained from conducting actions at certain community sites, recognizing that they are sacrosanct and must be kept open to all people.”

“A rollback of this policy would make immigrants think twice about seeking medical care and make parents doubt whether they should send their kids to school,” adds Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center. “It would destabilize day-to-day life for communities.”

Asked for comment, Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for DHS, emailed: “The sensitive locations memo will remain in place.”

But advocates insist this is not yet a firm enough commitment, for several reasons. DHS will soon release the final version of its deportation guidance memos, and David Nakamura reports that the newly leaked draft memos are currently being reviewed by White House counsel for potential changes. If the final versions rescind all previous memos and do not make an exception for sensitive locations — as is the case with the current drafts — the commitment to defending sensitive locations will remain ambiguous. The final version needs to explicitly exempt the sensitive locations memo.

What’s more, the ACLU’s Lin points to reports that Latino men were recently arrested after leaving a church hypothermia center on a winter night. In that case, DHS claimed the sensitive locations policy had been followed, but Lin points out that this raises questions about the administration’s commitment to “actually upholding the spirit and purpose of that policy.”

Now, it’s perfectly plausible that Trump’s DHS may clarify that it remains fully committed to the sensitive locations policy and may do so in practice. But it’s worth noting that Trump and his advisers have deliberately kept their intentions on deportations vague, sometimes suggesting that only criminals will be targeted, even as the concrete policies that are emerging seem to target many millions more. This ambiguity, some advocates think, is deliberately designed to instill fear among undocumented immigrants, perhaps encouraging them to “self-deport.”

“If the commitment to the sensitive locations policy also remains vague, the broader effect may be that undocumented immigrants and their families stay away from schools, hospitals, churches, and mosques,” immigration attorney David Leopold says. “That could serve the larger end of instilling fear and panic in the community, which could encourage people to leave the country, regardless of their contributions and family ties.” So this bears watching.

* PRIEBUS DEFENDS TRUMP’S ATTACKS ON MEDIA: On “Face the Nation,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus repeatedly defended Trump’s claim that the media is the “enemy of the American people,” blasting anonymously sourced, supposedly bogus stories about the Russia connection. And:

“We have done so many things that are noteworthy…The storyline should not be about bogus Russian spy stories. They should be that this president has accomplished more in the first 30 days of this presidency than people can possibly remember in a very long time.”

Yes, why won’t the media stop reporting on Russian efforts to undermine our democracy and instead uncritically amplify laughably absurd White House propaganda? So very unfair.

* REUTERS CONFIRMS FBI PROBE INTO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONNECTIONS: Reuters reports that ongoing FBI investigations are trying to detail how Russia meddled in the election and are probing financial transactions between Russians and people linked to Trump. And:

The [sources] also corroborated a Tuesday New York Times report that Americans with ties to Trump or his campaign had repeated contacts with current and former Russian intelligence officers before the November election. Those alleged contacts are among the topics of the FBI counterintelligence investigation.

Remember, this report is what set off Trump’s latest unhinged assault on the free press. But it’s not working: Reporters continue to dig.

* RUSSIA PLOT THICKENS: The Post reports:

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City last month with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow.

This suggests a search for what The Post calls an “informal conduit” to Trump by “some in the region aligned with Russia.” All of these disparate floating pieces should, in theory, help build pressure for a full, independent investigation.

* GOP VOTERS SUDDENLY QUIET ABOUT OBAMACARE: The New York Times reports that GOP lawmakers are now seeing much more muted support for repealing the health law now that it’s a real possibility, even in conservative districts:

From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office…In a nationwide CBS News poll last month, 53 percent of Republicans said they wanted to change the law to make it work better while 41 percent said they wanted to abolish it.

Why, it’s almost as if GOP voters’ desire to see the health law destroyed had more to do with who was in office than with policy reality.

* FRAUDULENT ECONOMICS ARE NOT UNIQUE TO TRUMP: Paul Krugman looks at the news that the Trump administration will rely on grotesquely inflated growth projections and argues that this can’t be disentangled from the economic fraudulence of the entire GOP:

Belief that tax cuts and deregulation will reliably produce awesome growth isn’t unique to the Trump-Putin administration…we hear it from congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan…The evidence, then, is totally at odds with claims that tax-cutting and deregulation are economic wonder drugs. So why does a whole political party continue to insist that they are the answer to all problems? It would be nice to pretend that we’re still having a serious, honest discussion here, but we aren’t.

Meanwhile, isn’t Trump supposed to be ideologically different from Ryan and other Republicans on economic matters?

* NO, THE U.S. WON’T TAKE IRAQ’S OIL: Trump recently said we might get “another chance” to take Iraq’s oil, but Defense Secretary James Mattis, in Iraq on Monday morning to discuss the offensive against the Islamic State, shot that down:

“I think all of us here in this room — all of us in America — have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future,” Mattis said during a meeting with reporters Sunday night. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”

Weak. Why does the United States always get taken advantage of? Seriously, Mattis appears to be on a tour designed to reassure foreign allies (he also visited Europe) that Trump isn’t as crazy as he appears.

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