Immigrant communities fearful after Homeland Security memos
Around the country, President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. have spread fear and anxiety and brought about major changes in how people go about their daily lives. (Feb.
More than 2000 people demonstrated in a march to show solidarity with immigrants and Muslims in Fort Collins in January.(Photo: Valerie Mosley/The Coloradoan)Buy Photo
New memos by the Department of Homeland Security have have added to uncertainty in immigrant communities across the country and in Colorado, where an estimated 163,000 immigrants are living illegally. The Homeland Security memos, issued Feb.
21, help implement President Donald Trump’s plan to increase immigration enforcement and ramp up deportations, according to The Coloradoan’s network partners USA TODAY. One section of the memos is particularly jarring for Fort Collins immigration attorney Kimberly Medina.
Previously, a process called expedited deportation was designed for people found near the border very soon after they arrived in the United States. The new memos expand this authority to immigrants living in the country illegally who cannot prove they have been continuously present in the United States for the two years preceding their detention, at the discretion of Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. Expedited deportation was previously limited to immigrants found within two weeks of arriving in the country illegally and within 100 air miles of the border.
It’s unclear how these enforcement efforts might play out, but Medina said she worries immigration authorities might try to use this authority in other states, such as Colorado, under the new guidelines. She said people detained can and should request a hearing and exercise their right to remain silent and have an attorney present.
Woman takes refuge in Denver church to avoid deportation These types of government actions can cause fear in immigrant communities, she said.
People living here legally often worry about family members. “In creating intense climates of fear, they are not making anyone safer,” she said. “Because whether they should be or not, lawful or permanent residents are now fearful.” Bob Morain, Chairman of the Larimer County Republican Party, said he had not yet looked at the exact language of the Homeland Security memos but said he supported increased enforcement of existing immigration laws, something he does not see as a partisan issue.
Democrats and Republicans have long worked together to have regular and controlled immigration, he said. “It’s my feeling, and the feeling of most people that I know, that we are a nation ruled by laws,” he said. “If we don’t enforce the laws, then we just have chaos or anarchy.”
The memos also call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents, allow for planning to begin on expanding the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and require immigrants caught entering the country illegally be placed in detention until their cases are resolved. Medina said some immigrants living in the country illegally have become so fearful of these types of government actions that they are afraid to call for help during emergencies because they are worried that even if they are reporting a crime, police might ask them for their immigration papers.
Although last week’s memos offer a mechanism for ICE to increase its efforts to work with local law enforcement agencies, there is no change in policy for law enforcement in Fort Collins or Larimer County. Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said this week that the department shares information about people who have been arrested with ICE, which ICE can use to determine if someone is potentially in violation of immigration laws. “Other than that, local police have no mechanism to determine the immigration status of a person who has come to us as victims or witnesses,” he wrote in an email.
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Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto said in a written statement that the department would not use immigration status as a reason to detain people. “Fort Collins Police officers will not use immigration status as the basis to enforce, investigate, or detain individuals,” the statement read. “We are committed to ensuring that every member of our community receives professional and compassionate service. A relationship that is built on trust is essential for two-way communication, and FCPS depends on our relationship with the entire community to ensure that Fort Collins remains a safe place for you and your families,” he said.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Tuesday that deportation protections granted by President Obama in 2012 to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children will continue to be honored so long as those immigrants abide by the rules of the program known as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
USA TODAY reporter Alan Gomez contributed to this story.
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- ^ according to The Coloradoan’s network partners USA TODAY. (www.coloradoan.com)
- ^ at the discretion of Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (www.scribd.com)
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