When President Trump issued his executive order on January 25, 2017, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” the response from the immigrant community was outrage and condemnation.
The Executive Order directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the removal of noncitizens who have: 1. been charged with any criminal offense, but such charge has not been resolved; 2. been convicted of any criminal offense; or 3. committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; 4. engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a government agency; 5. abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; 6. been the subject of a final order of removal, but have not departed; and 7. otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
This enumeration causes a lot of problems because the term “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” is too broad. That means even a minor offense such as a traffic violation can be a ground for deportation.
Furthermore, these grounds as a whole could pave the way for most if not all undocumented immigrants to be removed. They include those who entered the United States without inspection, asylum seekers, refugees from war-torn countries, and people who overstayed their visas. They are a priority as they could be considered as a serious threat to public safety or national security.
To ensure the compliance of all states with his plan, President Trump said that he will not give Federal funding to sanctuary cities a loose term that refers to communities that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation unless the money is for counterterrorism efforts and law enforcement. The sanctuary communities comprise at least 364 counties, 39 cities and 4 states in the United States.
Some elected officials have voiced their strong dissent to President Trump’s executive order. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that “We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status.” San Francisco Mayor Mr. Ed Lee announced that “We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality, and united against any and all efforts to divide our residents, our cities, and our country.” Boston’s Mayor reiterated these sentiments by saying, “To anyone who feels threatened today, or vulnerable, you are safe in Boston. We will do everything lawful in our power to protect you.”
Furthermore, the withholding of Federal funding from states to force their compliance with the Executive Order is problematic. According to a 2012 US Supreme Court decision, States are independent and cannot be compelled to enforce Federal programs that they do not want to implement in order to get Federal funding. If there will be conditions imposed by Congress, these must be related to the subject of the funding itself and not on other subjects such as immigration.
Time will tell how well the Trump administration can enforce the Executive Order. Right now the opposition is loud and gaining momentum. This will surely be a test on the President’s resolve to make changes to the immigration policy of the United States.
REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at (212) 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com