Deportation and the Trump Administration

Written by: Bill Ong Hing


The outcry over the Trump Administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents has been overwhelming. The widespread criticism led to the President’s executive order halting the separation. However, the damage has been done to the emotional and physical well-being of the more than 2,500 children who were separated prior to the order. On top of that, the order is not a promise to refrain from detaining children. Now the arriving children will be detained with their parents—possibly for an indefinite period if the Department of Justice gets its way to modify a 20-year-old agreement—the Flores settlement—that bars the detention of migrant children for more than 20 days.

Sadly, family detention is not new in the field of immigration enforcement. President Obama disappointed immigrant rights advocates after the surge of Central American unaccompanied children as well as adults with children in 2014 by opening new family facilities in New Mexico and Texas. In fact in 2015, his Department of Justice also sought a modification of the Flores settlement to detain children with their parents under worse conditions.

President Obama was dubbed the “Deporter-in-Chief” by his critics because of record-setting removal figures and his family detention policies. However, in less than two years, President Trump is definitely the Deportation Champ. He has successfully instituted a travel ban that preys most heavily on Muslims. He has unleashed ICE agents to randomly arrest and deport undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—most of whom have U.S. citizen children. He has ended Temporary Protected Status for longtime residents from countries suffering from violence and other terrible conditions such as Sudan, Haiti, and El Salvador. He has waged a war on sanctuary cities by threatening to withhold federal funds. His Attorney General has announced that those fleeing brutal domestic or gang violence are not eligible for asylum. And now the President is willing to go to court seeking the right to hold children and their parents indefinitely, while the parents are prosecuted for presenting themselves to border patrol agents seeking asylum.

My forthcoming book, American Presidents, Deportations, and Human Rights Violations, describes why immigration enforcement under Trump has instilled fear throughout immigrant communities throughout the country by reviewing all the efforts his ICE has attempted and implemented. Seemingly every day, there are reports of the arrests and deportation of individuals who have resided in the country for many years, in spite of the fact that the Obama Administration had allowed those individuals to remain, mostly because they were law abiding and have U.S. citizen children. Trump’s cancellation of the DACA program also has sent a chilling message throughout immigrant communities, as have his demands for building “The Wall,” billions of more dollars for enforcement, and eliminating family immigration.

However, the book begins with a detailed review of why President Obama was labelled “Deporter-in-Chief” by immigrant rights advocates—most notably because of his inhumane treatment of unaccompanied children and women and children fleeing violence in Central America. ICE family detention centers in Texas were started by Obama, and their dismal conditions have been described by federal courts as shameful, with poor sanitation, lack of adequate healthcare, and conditions that render children chronically ill and lethargic. In spite of Obama’s positive actions on behalf of DREAMers, his legacy in the immigration realm will forever be tarnished by the human rights abuse he visited upon Central American refugees.

For context and comparative purposes, the human rights violations in immigration enforcement under the Carter, Regan, and George W. Bush also are highlighted. President Carter infamously called for the roundup of Iranian students in the United States in retaliation for the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants in 1979. He also adopted an inhumane approach that treated poor migrants fleeing Haiti as “economic” migrants rather than refugees. President Regan’s administration also treated refugees fleeing catastrophic civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala as economic migrants. He also doubled efforts against Haitian refugees by ordering the Coast Guard to stop Haitian boats from entering U.S. territories, while expediting deportation hearings in violation of due process against those who made it to our shores. George W. Bush’s administration set the stage for anti-Muslim, anti-Arab immigration enforcement and sentiment in the United States after 9/11. His ICE also engaged in infamous, gun-wielding raids of factories and workplaces that netted hundreds of arrests at a time.

President Trump, however, has taken immigration enforcement to new heights. His willingness to try and do virtually anything to shake up the immigration status quo is unparalleled. Every week, he manages to come up with yet another proposal to curtail asylum and arrest deportable non-citizens, no matter how deep their roots in the United States.

Enjoyed reading this article? Share it today:

About the Author: Bill Ong Hing


Latest Comments

Have your say!