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AILA: President’s Border and Immigration Enforcement Policies Will Undermine Rights and Weaken Public Safety

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, President Donald Trump issued the first in a series of Executive Orders on border security, immigration enforcement, and the admission of refugees, which contain policies fundamentally contrary to the principles on which the American immigration system is based. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) condemns today's announcements, and calls on President Trump to end these divisive policies that will undermine rights, weaken public safety, and revert to an era of indiscriminate prosecution and removal of immigrants, irrespective of their family ties or contributions to the community.

Among other items, the President announced that he would order the Department of Homeland Security to construct a Southern border wall, increase the size of the enforcement agencies, and require that states and localities engage in immigration enforcement to supplement federal efforts. Cities that choose to comply with immigration and Constitutional law and focus their policing efforts on protecting their communities--so-called sanctuary cities-will now be at risk of losing federal grant funding. The President also drastically altered the current immigration enforcement categories, eliminating guidance that directed officers to prioritize the most dangerous individuals for removal. The order reinstates the Secure Communities program that resulted in the widespread unlawful detention and subsequent removal of numerous individuals for traffic stops and other civil violations. The Trump administration is resorting to enforcement practices that were found to result in discrimination and unlawful abuses against immigrants. The announced enforcement actions will take Secure Communities of the past even further by directing law enforcement to focus their attention on individuals who have not even committed a crime.

The new policy will turn away or detain asylum seekers fleeing persecution without any clear benefit to border security or national security. In addition to these announcements, it is widely reported that the President will announce tomorrow a four month suspension of the entire U.S Refugee Resettlement program, reduce the year's refugee admissions ceiling by more than half, and ban the admission of Syrian refugees for the immediate future. In addition the President will impose a 30-day ban on the entry* of nearly all nationals from seven designated Muslim-majority countries: Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan.

AILA President William A. Stock expressed deep concern over President Trump's decision to implement an enforcement-only immigration policy, "President Trump has an opportunity to turn away from the negative portrayal of immigrants and the unsupported position that immigration is bad for our country. Now that he is President, rather than jumping the gun with misguided and poorly vetted policy announcements, he should take the time to learn about the realities of our immigration system, hear from mayors and local law enforcement officials about what will actually make our communities safer, and implement policies that will strengthen rather than divide us. Instead, today's announcements show a disregard for the fundamental right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution, a failure to appreciate the valuable contributions that immigrants make in every sector of our economy and in communities across the country, and our humanitarian obligations to protect those who fear harm in their home countries."

Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director agreed, "America has invested billions in border security and despite the constant barrage of claims to the contrary, the truth is that the border is more secure now than it has ever been. Building a wall that will cost billions of more dollars, with the empty promise that Mexico will pay for it and for the sole purpose of fulfilling a campaign promise, rather than working on a smart, balanced strategy is short-sighted and a waste of resources. Keeping out and locking up asylum seekers will not protect America but will hurt thousands in need of humanitarian protection. President Trump all but obliterates the long-standing U.S. commitment to humanitarian protection and violates our laws requiring that due process be afforded to every person deprived of liberty. In cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities, President Trump is doing nothing more than interfering in local law enforcement efforts to keep their communities safe, which is counterproductive at best and destructive at worst. His order will also dramatically escalate the use of immigration detention and greatly expand the use of expedited removal, both of which will pose serious threats to fundamental Constitutional rights and principles. These plans will not make America stronger or safer. They will weaken our nation and are contrary to our legacy as a nation of immigrants. I am disappointed that President Trump is choosing today to sow fear by unleashing a deportation force that will create chaos within our communities."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

* This sentence was updated to use the more accurate term of “entry” rather than “admission.”

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 17012533.