By Jennie L. Ilustre
Asian American advocacy organizations have lambasted the two memorandums by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), issued on February 21, which implement the immigration policies under President Donald Trump in line with his campaign promises on tightening border control. The move would increase the categories of people subject to priority deportation, as well as speed up the removal process of the nation’s 11 million undocumented.
The organizations pointed out that implementing the new policies, detailed in a series of Executive Orders, would result in the breaking up of families and a climate of fear, among other things.
The DHS memorandums include hiring 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, according to the Washington Post, which also reported that White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied that the goal of Trump’s executive orders is mass deportations.
The DHS memorandums spared participants in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA). At a press conference on February 16, President Trump said he would “show great heart” toward those covered by DACA. DACA recipients are adults who were brought to the U.S. without authorization and were raised and educated in the country. (See related story.)
Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) urged addressing the immigration issue along the nation’s fundamental ideals of justice, fairness and humane values. “There is a more humane and just way to handle immigration. Our immigration laws should stand for our core values as a nation that welcomes immigrants, respects due process, and gives everyone fair treatment under the law.”
Calling the DHS action “unconscionable,” Megan Horn-Essaheb, assistant director of immigration at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, remarked: “We oppose the administration’s agenda of mass deportations which aims to tear families apart and create fear in our communities. Its harsh so-called priorities essentially make all undocumented immigrants and deportable lawful permanent residents a priority for deportation.”
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice is outraged that under the guise of national security, the administration is yet again scapegoating immigrants,” the group noted. “There are 900,000 undocumented Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in this country and many more AAPI immigrants who all contribute to their families, communities, and our economy.” Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), based in the nation’s capital, is an affiliation of five civil rights organizations.
On February 23, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, in Mexico for talks with Mexican officials, emphatically stated that the deportation program was not “a military operation,” as declared by President Trump earlier that day.
Politico reported that Kelly told Mexican officials it was no such thing. It quoted him as saying in a public statement, “No – repeat – no use of military force in immigration operations. None.” The report also said White House press secretary Spicer explained the president used the term to describe the efficiency of the implementation of his immigration-related orders.
On February 22, SAALT Executive Director stressed Suman Raghunathan: “These policies massively expand and accelerate detentions and deportations, trample upon due process by, in many cases, removing the requirement for hearings and convictions prior to deportation, deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration enforcement authorities, and increase the profiling and targeting of immigrant communities already under siege in the wake of recent and controversial executive orders released by this administration.”
She added: “Our communities are at the crosshairs. SAALT will continue to fight for the core rights and protections for our communities at the national, state and local levels with our 55 community partners.”
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national South Asian advocacy organization. It is the coordinating entity of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 55 organizations that serve, organize, and advocate on behalf of the South Asian community across the country.
Remarked Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA): “The latest memos have already begun to strike fear in the heart of our immigrant communities and again demonstrate the administration’s crusade to use divide-and-conquer rhetoric and tactics. With millions of undocumented people now named as ‘priorities’ for deportation, we need to organize and fight with our union allies, community leaders, and local governments to ensure protection for all immigrants in this country. Too much is at stake, and the implementation of these memos will result in thousands of families torn apart; increased criminalization of immigrants, poor folks, and people of color; and expansion of the private prison industry.”
Full text of Statements by APA Organizations
At press time, following are the Asian American advocacy organizations that have issued reaction statements to the DHS memos. Full texts of their statements follow.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice Calls Latest Administration’s Actions on Immigration Unconscionable
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice is outraged that under the guise of national security, the administration is yet again scapegoating immigrants. There are 900,000 undocumented Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in this country and many more AAPI immigrants who all contribute to their families, communities, and our economy.
“The administration has outlined a mass deportation regime targeting all immigrants–including those on student visas, work visas, and the undocumented–for deportation enforcement.
“The most recent statements and memos from the Department of Homeland Security do nothing to soften the harm done by the administration’s earlier Executive Orders. In fact, the memos greatly increase the probability of tearing mothers and fathers from their children, leaving families with no main breadwinner, and forcing those who remain to pick up the pieces left behind from inhumane policies and enforcement efforts. Advancing Justice opposes the administration’s agenda of mass deportations and scapegoating of immigrants that are designed to create a wedge in American communities and marginalize communities of color.
“The internal enforcement memos seeks to promote fear of immigrants and orders the ICE Director to take funds from programs used to serve any undocumented immigrants–including immigrants who are trafficked and victims of crime–to this new office that will only further demonize immigrants and stir up hatred.
“In addition to the policy goals of the memos, the recent creation of the ‘Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office’ and the language used to establish the office are offensive and reminiscent of the rhetoric used to vilify Japanese Americans and justify their internment.
“Only days after the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, this administration continues to demonstrate hostility toward immigrant communities and embrace government-sanctioned prejudice. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the recent profiling of Muslim and South Asian Americans in the travel ban, we are in a resurgence of xenophobia and hate that is being led by the administration.
There is a more humane and just way to handle immigration. Our immigration laws should stand for our core values as a nation that welcomes immigrants, respects due process, and gives everyone fair treatment under the law.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.
SAALT Resolutely Objects to DHS Memos
Creating Blueprint for Mass Deportations
Suman Raghunathan, SAALT Executive Director
“South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, resolutely objects to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) memoranda implementing President Trump’s executive orders on interior and border enforcement. We believe these memos further relegate South Asian and all immigrant communities to second-class citizenship, questioning our very place in the quintessential nation of immigrants.
“These policies massively expand and accelerate detentions and deportations, trample upon due process by, in many cases, removing the requirement for hearings and convictions prior to deportation, deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration enforcement authorities, and increase the profiling and targeting of immigrant communities already under siege in the wake of recent and controversial executive orders released by this administration.
“The scale of the President’s anti-immigrant policies is extreme, and the new administration appears hell-bent on targeting and demonizing immigrant communities through orders that actively undermine safety and public trust in law enforcement. Short-circuiting due process is not a crackdown on crime, but a crackdown on rights and our very founding values as a nation, and these measures must be opposed by all communities of color.
“The President’s policies deeply affect the South Asian American community, the most rapidly growing demographic group in the United States at over 4.3 million. The undocumented South Asian population has grown significantly in the US in recent decades. India is the country of origin with the greatest increase in unauthorized immigrants to the United States with a 914% increase since 1990. Currently there are 450,000 undocumented Indian-Americans in the US alone, making India the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
“As documented in our recent report, ‘Power, Pain, Potential,’ hate violence against our communities has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the backlash immediately after the events of 9/11. At a time when immigrant communities need to feel confident in engaging with local law enforcement to report such incidents, the President’s draconian policies will instead force vulnerable communities to turn inward based upon their fear of profiling and deportation at the hands of the authorities. Overall public safety will likely plunge as a result, as entire communities continue to lose trust in the very law enforcement professionals tasked with keeping them safe. As such, public safety does not increase, but instead cripples under the weight of these short-sighted anti-immigrant policies.
“Our communities are at the crosshairs. SAALT will continue to fight for the core rights and protections for our communities at the national, state and local levels with our 55 community partners.”
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that elevates the voices and perspectives of South Asian individuals and organizations to build a more just and inclusive society in the United States. SAALT is the coordinating entity of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 55 organizations that serve, organize, and advocate on behalf of the South Asian community across the country.