It is no longer necessary to speculate about how President Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies might impact the lives of vulnerable people in America — more than two months into the administration, concrete statistics and reports of real incidents are available.
The president began his campaign by referring to Mexicans as “rapists”; he later called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.” Since the inauguration, he has taken several actions that have turned rhetoric into policy. On January 25, he signed an executive order called Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, which announced the intention to fund his long-promised border wall and removed Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants. Two days later, he issued the first of two ill-fated travel bans targeting Muslims.
Trump’s actions have created visceral fear among many immigrant and minority groups. “It is keeping people in a constant state of anxiety,” Thanu Yakupitiyage, senior communications manager for New York Immigration Coalition, told The Outline.
We also now have statistics that show immigrants have avoided seeking help from law enforcement when needed, and parents have kept children out of school. In other words, people’s lives are measurably worse under these new policies.
- Earlier this month in Los Angeles, police chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that sexual assault and domestic violence reporting was down a staggering 25 percent in the Latino community due to a fear of deportation. According to Beck, that “far exceeds the reductions of any other demographic group.”
- In New York, there are reports of legal immigrants and immigrants whose charges were expected to be dismissed who didn’t come to court out of fear of being arrested by ICE. The Daily News confirmed that ICE agents have been showing up in city courts ahead of appearances by undocumented people and making arrests.
- In the border town of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the school system saw a 60 percent increase in absences in one week after an ICE raid. More than 2,000 of approximately 25,000 students in the district stayed home, The New Yorker reported.
- Higher education has also felt an impact, losing potential students. A recent survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers showed that 39 percent of the U.S. schools that responded had seen a decrease in international applicants, particularly those from the Middle East.
- Statistics published by Politifact show that people without criminal convictions were arrested by ICE during a series of targeted enforcement operations in February: 72 in Chicago, 10 in the Los Angeles area, and 28 in the San Antonio area.
Additionally, advocates are hearing of more issues that have not yet been quantified.
“For undocumented individuals, we’ve heard of cases of mothers and fathers who are transferring over custody of their kids to a U.S citizen relative or friend so that someone can make a guardianship decision in case they are deported,” Yakupitiyage, of the New York Immigration Coalition, told The Outline.
“It is keeping people in a constant state of anxiety.”
“We've heard of children in schools who are so anxious they can’t concentrate on their school work for fear of their parents being deported. Even with the ongoing saga of the Muslim ban, even though it’s been blocked, the Muslim community fears what could be next.”
In the more immediate term, the next battleground appears to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to punish so-called sanctuary cities like New York by withholding federal funding. Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to resist, while warning of the additional problems it could create for a city that needs resources to fight the threat of terrorism.
“Any attempt to cut NYPD funding for the nation’s top terror target will be aggressively fought in court,” de Blasio said this week. “We won’t back down from protecting New Yorkers from terror — or from an overzealous administration fixated on xenophobia and needless division.”
Even without federal defunding, Trump’s policies are accomplishing what he and hardline anti-immigration advocates want: terrorizing certain populations to persuade them to “self-deport,” or leave. This strategy may be somewhat effective, but in the meantime, it means kids are being kept out of school and battered women aren’t reporting their abuse.