President Trump’s hard-line immigration plan is anti-refugee, anti-child, anti-Dreamer, anti-Native American, and anti-human rights.
By Joanne Lin, National Director, Advocacy and Government Affairs
On October 8, 2017, President Trump released a list of hard-line immigration “principles” that threaten to derail congressional negotiations to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as “Dreamers,” to remain in the U.S. legally. The White House’s list of demands includes funding a southern border wall, accelerating fast-track deportations of unaccompanied Central American children, and imposing tougher standards and stiffer penalties against people seeking refugee protection. The White House legislative director told reporters that Congress should include this list of demands in any legislative deal to protect the Dreamers. Congressional Democratic leaders and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus quickly rejected the President’s demands.
The President’s immigration plan represents a wholesale assault on the human rights of Native Americans, Central American unaccompanied children, people seeking refugee protection, and Dreamers.
1. White House plan is anti-Native American: The top priority on the White House list is funding for the wall — projected to cost more than $25 billion. Amnesty International USA vigorously opposed the House’s decision in July 2017 to spend $1.6 billion to build the President’s border wall. Our board of directors made their opposition to the border wall known loud and clear in a letter sent to congressional Republican leaders in September 2017.
A border wall would have a devastating impact on the human rights of Native Americans. Any wall would cut right through tribal lands, directly impacting the lives and livelihood of Native American Nations. Congress has not obtained the consent of the affected Nations, which is a requirement under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The National Congress of American Indians and the Legislative Council of the Tohono O’odham, the second-largest U.S. tribe by land holdings, have both passed resolutions opposing the construction of a border wall.
2. White House plan is anti-child: The White House is pushing for Congress to amend anti-human trafficking law so that the administration can quickly deport unaccompanied Central American children, without providing them a full and fair asylum process. Under current law, unaccompanied children who arrive from Central America and other noncontiguous countries are afforded more due process than those arriving from Mexico and Canada, who are quickly deported without access to a full immigration court hearing. While pursuing their asylum claims in immigration court, Central American children are permitted to remain in the U.S.
The White House is pushing to strip the legal rights of Central American unaccompanied children in order to send a message of deterrence and punishment to those fleeing Central America. The White House’s crackdown on unaccompanied Central American children is heartless and cruel. If implemented, the White House’s plan would result in Central American children being deported back into situations in which they are at grave risk of being raped, beaten, even killed.
3. White House plan is anti-refugee: The White House plan calls for the expansion of expedited removal, imposition of a harsher “credible fear” standard, and stiffer criminal penalties for people who illegally reenter the U.S. Taken together, these proposals are aimed at deterring, criminalizing, detaining, and punishing people who flee to the U.S. in search of refugee and humanitarian protection.
Amnesty International has documented high numbers of Central Americans fleeing rape, torture, gang violence, and other forms of violence. In our 2017 Facing Walls report Amnesty International documented 113 cases of Central Americans fleeing torture and violence. Eighty-six percent said that the reasons they fled were because of major threats to their life, and 27 percent mentioned the murder of a close family member or close contact in recent years.
Under U.S. and international law, the U.S. government must provide a fair and accessible asylum process, in order to ensure that people are not returned to situations where they would be persecuted, tortured, or killed. These protections must be upheld and cannot be sacrificed, compromised, or negotiated away.
4. White House plan is anti-Dreamer: By March 2018 thousands of Dreamers will begin losing their work permits and protection from deportation if Congress does not pass legislation to grant them permanent residency. The President bears responsibility for placing the Dreamers in peril, since he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) initiative in September 2017. By abruptly cancelling DACA, the President threw the fate of some 800,000 Dreamers into the hands of Congress. By announcing the list of hard-line immigration demands, the President has caved to the nativist agenda, which fortunately is not reflective of the views of many in Congress.
With the March 2018 deadline fast approaching, Amnesty International USA urges all members of Congress to redouble their efforts to pass a clean Dream Act with NO border wall and NO additional “border enforcement” measures that would endanger people seeking humanitarian protection.