What This Insane Week in Immigration Means

Between the travel ban, children being separated at the border, proposed detention centers in the Bay Area, and Temporary Protected Status holders fighting to stay, immigration has had a big week.

Protesters target the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in San Francisco in February (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

In upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Tuesday, the Supreme Court boosted executive power to impose unilateral immigration policies. 

And as we’ve seen this week, Trump has been rolling out plans that are only strengthened by this decision — as long as Congress doesn’t act. Here are recent developments you may have missed and why it matters:

Supreme Court upholds travel ban

This iteration of the ban is the Trump administration’s third attempt to gain approval for it in the federal courts, which initially struck it down for targeting only Muslim-majority countries. But as of Tuesday, people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen will have indefinite, varying restrictions on their ability to come here, if even just to visit relatives.

Notably, the Supreme Court simultaneously overturned its 1944 ruling that upheld Japanese internment camps and said it wasn’t based on race. If you weren’t already thinking that it’s ironic for the court to recognize an immoral decision in its past while making another obviously race-based one that will likely haunt it for generations to come, Justice Sonia Sotomayor already articulated it for you in the dissent.

“This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laudable and long overdue. But it does not make the majority’s decision here acceptable or right,” Sotomayor wrote. “By blindly accepting the government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely’ wrong decision with another.”

Children will no longer be separated from parents at the border, but will still be detained

After weeks of the Trump administration enacting a policy to separate children at the border of Mexico and inconsistently lying that it doesn’t exist, media coverage reached a crescendo and they were forced to retreat last Wednesday — barely.

On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department wasted no time in asking a federal judge to change detention rules so that children can be detained with their parents to avoid bad press of separations.

The problem for Attorney General Jeff Sessions is that the country has already litigated the problem of indefinitely shackling up undocumented children so the government is required to place them in the care of relatives or the “least restrictive” facilities. Without relatives in the country, or undocumented relatives avoiding the federal government, the kids go into youth shelters run by Health and Human Services.

It only took stories of border agents taking a child during breastfeeding, a father who died of suicide after being separated from his wife and 3-year-old son and leaked audio of children crying for their parents to get to this point. Let’s hope that $20 million raised by a Bay Area couple will go a long way in reuniting those roughly 2,300 children separated from their parents because federal agencies can’t be bothered to do it expeditiously.

Catching onto that problem, a federal judge in San Diego ruled Tuesday night that affected children must be reunited with their parents within 30 days. Children younger than five years old must be reunited within 14 days.

Detention center floated in the Bay Area

As the emotions over the child separations were still raw, TIME reported on Friday that the U.S. Navy is considering detaining up to 47,000 immigrants at a former naval base in Concord. Alabama and Arizona were included in the larger plan to erect “temporary and austere” tent cities.

Contra Costa County officials were caught off guard by the plans not only for its plans to further crack down on immigrants but for the lack of feasibility. In a letter obtained by the Bay Area News Group, Concord Rep. Mark DeSaulnier reminded the Navy secretary that former Naval Weapons Station is still contaminated and that the infrastructure is unsuitable. Not to mention the surrounding urban area.

So while children will no longer be forced to separate from their parents, the government has plenty of plans cooking to keep them detained.

UPDATE, 2:55 p.m.:The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will not be moving forward with the plans in Concord, DeSaulnier announced Wedesday afternoon

“We fought this proposal along with our local officials and dedicated community,” DeSaulnier said. “We will continue to fight against the inhumane and unjust policies proposed by this Administration.”

However, he added that “it’s important not to let our guard down as one tweet can change things.”

Temporary Protected Status holders fight to stay

Trump has also targeted immigrants who are in the country legally through the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. At least four of the 10 countries with TPS designations have been told to pack up their belongings or go underground as undocumented immigrants, with raids and deportations seemingly around every corner. 

In March, nine plaintiffs sued the federal government for ending the status for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Sudan. A federal judge in San Francisco declined to dismiss the case on Friday, citing the urgency of the case.

Years after being offered refuge in the United States, the plaintiffs have started families, businesses, and launched careers. The Center for Migration Studies estimates that 273,000 U.S. citizens have a parent with TPS protections.

In California alone, there are roughly 50,000 Salvadorans and 6,000 Hondurans who are TPS holders roughly the same amount are their U.S.-born children. Plus, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that the country’s GDP would lose $45 billion over a decade if it were to deport all Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS holders.

None of these policies show any signs of slowing down, especially with the broad presidential powers on immigration endorsed by the Supreme court on Tuesday. With these policies come a sharply increased need filled by immigration groups so, should you feel so moved to act, here’s how you can help out local organizations or the attend upcoming protests.

View Comments