On March 22, 2017, Amanda Frost from AUWCL’s Immigrant Justice Clinic and two of her students presented at the American University Student Forum on Immigration in response to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration.
The Forum began with Frost and her students explaining the basics of immigration in America. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) classifies immigrants into several categories: Lawful Permanent Residents, Green Card Holders, Refugees, Asylees, and Undocumented. While undocumented immigrants can be deported at any time, the others can usually only be deported for committing removable offenses. “Not all crimes are removable offences,” one student explained, “even if USCIS officials say it is. Always see an immigration attorney; there are ways of relief you wouldn’t even know about until speaking to an attorney.”
Next, Frost explained that under President Obama, immigration officials prioritized the removal of undocumented immigrants to removing those who committed crimes, engaged in fraud, or had a final order of removal. President Trump, as part of his plan to try to remove all undocumented immigrants, is now encouraging state police officers to become deputized immigration agents to assist in enforcing immigration law.
Frost then discussed Sanctuary Cities, which she preferred to call “Civil Liberty Cities.” She explained how the name can sometimes be misleading because it makes people feel safer than they really are. Sanctuary cities cannot harbor immigrants from agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sanctuary cities still have to follow the law and honor warrants for searches and arrest like any other city. The main difference is that they do not actively assist ICE agents in enforcing immigration law. American University, for example, is not going to hand over a list of immigrant students to make work easier for ICE agents, but the school has chosen to not call itself a sanctuary university because it does not want to mislead students into thinking they are completely safe from ICE agents.
Additionally, Frost thinks that President Trump’s plan will be to utilize fear tactics because of the logistical difficulty in deporting the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Through random but constant enforcement, President Trump can instill fear to make immigrants chose to self-deport rather than risk getting caught in the next raid. She also believes that President Trump will try to make examples of the mayors and governors who resist the executive orders, which will make it politically painful for them to continue to resist.
The presentation ended with a discussion on knowing your rights in case an audience member or his/her friends or family members were an immigrant. Frost and her students encouraged people to stay calm, be truthful, and assert their rights if they encounter an immigration agent. Additionally, they said to answer the ICE agents’ questions and inform the agents of any medical issues, if you need to arrange childcare, or if there are any other special circumstances. Although undocumented immigrants do not have a right to a government-funded attorney, they do have a right to provide their own attorney. The presenters further stated that legal immigrants, like green card holders, should keep their immigration documents on them at all times, and if their papers have expired, then they should not lie to agents about immigration status or give them fake documents, as this can lead to larger problems with accusations of fraud. Frost and her students insisted that anyone detained by ICE agents should never sign anything from ICE without a lawyer present because ICE may try to get people to sign their rights away. Furthermore, the presenters stated that if an ICE agent comes to someone’s home, he or she should demand to see the warrant before allowing the agents inside. Finally, Frost and her students declared that people do not have to show their immigration papers to a regular police officer, but they are required to show them if an ICE agent asks.
Under the U.S. Constitution, President Trump can encourage state police to assist in the federal work of removing undocumented immigrants, but he cannot require it. This has been established through Supreme Court cases on the anti-commandeering doctrine, holding that states and state agents do not have to help enforce federal acts or regulations. Similarly, “Sanctuary Cities” cannot be forced to help President Trump’s deportation plan, although he may make it politically painful to resist. Since the executive orders began, immigrants have feared for their safety and the safety of their families. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.S. is bound by, every person has a right to freedom from fear. Instilling fear through constant, random immigration raids to encourage undocumented immigrants to self-deport would violate this principle of the Declaration.