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2017 Has Been a Terrifying Year for Immigrants

William Martinez, 11, and his mother, Jenny Martinez, during a rally outside United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Miramar, Fla., in May. They came to the U.S. from El Salvador and fear deportation. (Lynne Sladky / AP)

It’s a terrifying time to be an immigrant in the United States. President Trump moved quickly during his first months in office to make good on his campaign promises to increase deportations and stop illegal immigration, and immigration arrests spiked by 38 percent during his first months in office. While these policy changes were both swift and public, a new report by The New York Times shows how insidious the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration truly is.

“The changes show how the Trump administration has managed to carry out the least attention-grabbing, but perhaps farthest-reaching, portion of the president’s immigration plans: cutting the number of people entering the United States each year as temporary workers or permanent residents,” The Times explains. It goes on to detail how, via executive orders issued earlier this year “billed as protecting the nation from terrorism and its workers from foreign competition,” the Trump administration is denying many applications.

“Immigration lawyers and companies seeking the visas say that some of the decisions appear arbitrary,” The Times reports. “Other changes,” it adds, “affect foreigners already working or living in the United States on H-1Bs or other temporary permits.”

These subtle forms of suppression come at a time when outright injustice is flooding immigrant communities. A new investigation conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas reveals a startling pattern of abuse by the Texas Highway Patrol, which “has developed a well-oiled deportation machine that scoops up drivers who’ve committed minor traffic infractions” and channels them toward deportation.

The Intercept, working with the ACLU of Texas, gathered dashcam footage of some of these arrests. Often, reporter Debbie Nathan explains, these arrests do not follow correct legal proceedings.

“As soon as they say they don’t have a driver’s license, it triggers a call from the trooper to the Border Patrol,” Nathan told Amy Goodman in a recent Democracy Now! interview. “The troopers are not supposed to do that, but they start the interrogation, and then the Border Patrol finishes it up. They have the legal right to do that, once they arrive. But the interrogations often start, you know, when the troopers encounter the person.”

With stories like these going viral, it’s no wonder undocumented immigrant communities are terrified. But, as 60-year-old Guadalupe Plascencia recently learned, the threat of deportation can present itself even if you’re a U.S. citizen.

Plascencia spent a night in jail and was later put into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and was only released once her daughter arrived with her passport. The American Civil Liberties Union is now suing the federal immigration agency and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on Plascencia’s behalf.

These stories are just recent anecdotes in a year filled with big policy shifts, like Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, his decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 60,000 Haitians living as legal residents in the U.S., huge changes in ICE policies, Trump’s numerous travel bans—one of which was finally approved by the Supreme Court earlier this month—and his administration’s first steps toward constructing a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border. As 2017 comes to a close and immigrant communities wonder what is in store for 2018, Trump supporters are likely pleased that the president has followed through on his 2015 declaration regarding undocumented immigrants: “They have to go.”

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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