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People in the United States clearly care about immigration. On July 13, the residents of more than 700 U.S. cities took to the streets to demonstrate their feelings about the treatment of immigrant families at the southern border. In this region, there were vigils or rallies in Liberty and Callicoon, Narrowsburg and Milford.
In Liberty, protesters carried signs that read “Free the Children,” “Reunite Children and Families,” “We are Marching for the Children” and “No Trump.”
In Sullivan County, there are significant numbers of both documented and undocumented immigrants. Juanita Sarmiento, a member of Sullivan County-based Youth Economic Group, was one of the marchers. “The immigrant community in Liberty is huge,” she said.“I don’t see anyone that’s not part of the immigrant community. The main restaurants—the Indian restaurant, the Thai restaurant, the Mexican restaurants—they’re all run by immigrants.”
Asked if President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and immigration practices at the Mexican border were often discussed in her community, she said, “It’s a daily conversation, it’s something we talk about every day. We’re not going to shut up about it until something changes.”
Under U.S. and international laws, undocumented immigrants in the country are allowed to apply for asylum regardless of how they arrived in the country. Trump wants to change that with an executive order that says any immigrant who passes through another country must apply for asylum in that country before coming to the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has promised to sue the Trump Administration over the rule—and by the time this is printed may already have done so—because that would be changing U.S. immigration law, which must be done by Congress, and that body has so far declined to make that change.
When immigrants leave the U.S. they fall into one of two categories. Some are “removed,” and they tend to be more established immigrants who may own property and have deep family ties. People who are removed may not return for a number of years. The other category is for immigrants who “returned” from the U.S. without being issued an order of removal.
The number of immigrants removed or returned under Trump is not all that different from those who left under President Barack Obama. In 2016, under Obama, 333,592 immigrants were formally removed from the U.S. and 106,473 returned across the border. Under Trump in 2017, 295,364 immigrants were removed from the U.S. and 100,754 returned.
What’s different between Trump and previous presidents is his use of previously unacceptable rhetoric in addressing immigrant issues. Trump clearly believes labeling Mexican immigrants as “drug dealers, criminals and rapists,” as he did in announcing his candidacy in 2015, is a big part of the reason he was elected president in 2016, and he is at it again in the run-up to 2020.
He launched a series of tweets on July 14, taking aim at, “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” He told them to go back to where they came from.
The remarks were aimed at representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, all women of color. Three of the four women were born in the U.S. and thus have no other country to go back to. The fourth became a naturalized citizen as a teenager.
The president’s remarks would be like someone telling Trump he should go back to Germany, where his father was born, or telling Baron Trump to go back to back to Slovenia where Melania Trump was born.
Trump also announced in recent weeks that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would launch massive raids on immigrant communities and thousands of undocumented residents would be arrested beginning on July 14. But there were no large-scale round-ups on Sunday, though immigrant communities registered a good deal of apprehension over the weekend. Once again, analysts said Trump was using the announcement of the raids and immigration policy in general as a political tool to stir up his base.
The problem with that strategy is that whenever Trump threatens and ramps up the rhetoric on immigration it not only stirs up his base, it also stirs up the opposition and gives them a new reason to take to the streets, as we saw in Milford, Narrowsburg, Callicoon and Liberty.
Nationwide at least one poll, published on Bloomberg news in June (www.bit.ly/toofarpoll) shows that about 50% of Americans think that enforcement of immigration laws has gone too far. Only 24% think enforcement measures have not gone far enough.