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'Families belong together'

Dozens of residents of Sullivan County and the wider region turned out to a rally on June 30 to protest President Donald Trump’s policies regarding immigrants, and specifically his decision to separate more than 2,300 children from their parents.

It was one of more than 600 rallies carried out across the U.S. as millions of people turned out to show their disapproval of the policy. A federal judge ordered that all of the children be reunited with their parent or parents within 30 days, but it’s not clear if the federal agencies involved with immigration enforcement will be able to comply within the allotted time.

The practice came into existence after Trump adopted a “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants who cross the border illegally or violate any immigration regulation or law. Ironically, had a zero tolerance policy regarding immigration been in place in the 1990s, it’s likely that Trump’s wife Melania would not have been allowed to stay in the country. That’s because, as the Associated Press reported (tinyurl.com/y83z4o8e), Melania was paid slightly more than $20,000 for 10 modeling jobs while she was in the country on a tourist visa, before obtaining a green card. That’s a violation of immigration rules.

Some people think that Trump’s policy to separate children from their families was a political move on the part of the president to stir up his base in advance of the midterm elections. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced on June 28 that he was joining 16 other states and the District of Columbia to sue the Trump Administration over his immigration policy, said as much. He said, “Either this was a Department of Justice, Health and Human Services blunder of Biblical proportions, or it was a Machiavellian political move because he wanted to politicize this issue all along, and he wanted to generate the tumult that he has generated on the immigration issue.”

Trump has proposed many changes to immigration laws, and all of them would make it more difficult for immigrants to stay in the U.S. As the system works now, immigrants who are in the U.S. have a right to seek asylum. If that process gets far enough along, it will involve a judge. That’s one of the things Trump would change. He would allow the expulsion of immigrants who cross the border illegally without the ability to see a judge. But that would require Congress to change the Immigration and Nationality Act, and Congress has not been able to agree on any changes to immigration law since the 1980s.

Also, while immigrants don’t enjoy all of the rights that U.S. citizens enjoy, they are protected by the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and changing the 14th Amendment would be even more difficult than changing immigration law.

Further, Trump has said many times that if he could, he would put an end to the practice of the U.S. automatically granting citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. That was established by the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment, which says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” It was adopted by Congress after the Civil War to reverse the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which declared that Americans who descended from Africa were not U.S. citizens and could not sue in U.S. courts.

Trump would also end what he calls “chain migration” and what others (including federal law) call “family reunification.” That’s the system where a legal immigrant may be able to obtain a visa for a sibling, parent, or child.

So Trump’s goal, which he has pursued aggressively, is to reduce the number of immigrants and make it more difficult for them to come. But his goal is increasingly out of step with the view of the American public. A poll from the Pew Research Institute released on June 28, found that, “Since 2001, the share of Americans who favor increased legal immigration into the U.S. has risen 22 percentage points (from 10% to 32%), while the share who support a decrease has declined 29 points (from 53% to 24%).

Most of the increase comes from Democrats and Democratic leaning independents, 40% of whom believe that legal immigration should be increased, and that’s up from 20% in 2006.

But the views of Republicans have also shifted, and now the number who say legal immigration should be decreased has dropped from 43% to 33% since 2006.

The poll was taken before the outrage over separating children from their parents erupted, but polling from Quinnipiac University shows that 66% oppose the separation policy from their parents as opposed to 27% who support it.

The same poll shows that the public supports allowing “dreamers” eventually to become citizens by a margin of 79% to 15%.

If Cuomo is right, and Trump is using the issue to fire up his base, it might just backfire come November. You can do your part by paying attention to the positions of the candidates in our area who are running for office.

 

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