Following unleashing of ICE, arrests of immigrants without criminal records more than doubles

It’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: when Donald Trump and members of his administration claim Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is using American taxpayer resources to prioritize dangerous people and “bad hombres” for arrest and deportation, they’re lying to you. Since Trump unshackled his mass deportation agents via executive order after taking office last year, the largest surge in ICE arrests haven’t been people who pose a risk to public safety, but rather undocumented immigrants with no criminal convictions at all:

The agency made 37,734 “noncriminal” arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year. The category includes suspects facing possible charges as well as those without criminal records.

Critics say ICE is increasingly grabbing at the lowest-hanging fruit of deportation-eligible immigrants to meet the president’s unrealistic goals, replacing a targeted system with a scattershot approach aimed at boosting the agency’s enforcement statistics.  

That includes arrests resulting from what immigrant rights advocates have termed “silent raids”: “Those facing deportation who show up for periodic ‘check-ins’ with ICE to appeal for more time in the United States can no longer be confident that good behavior will spare them from detention.” In other words, immigrants just trying to follow ICE’s rules by checking in. But, “once-routine appointments now can end with the immigrants in handcuffs.”

In one recent “silent raid,” officials detained an Ohio dad who had gone to what was supposed to be a routine check-in, accompanied by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) and noted immigration attorney David Leopold. “The first thing out of their mouth was, ‘We’re not going to beat around the bush. We’re going to take him into custody,’” said Leopold. Despite living in the U.S. for nearly four decades with no criminal record, Amer “Al” Adi Othman was deported to Jordan two weeks ago.

“Immigrants whose only crime was living in the country illegally were largely left alone during the latter years of the Obama administration,” reports The Washington Post. 

'I miss my children': A year later, one of first immigrants deported by Trump struggles in Mexico

Last February, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an Arizona mom of two U.S. citizens, became one of the first undocumented immigrants to be taken into custody following Donald Trump signing a series of executive orders that effectively unleashed his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mass deportation force. In a last-ditch effort, the nation watched as her supporters formed a ring around a convoy of vans that were exiting an ICE facility in Phoenix. Inside one of those vans was Garcia de Rayos. Her two children, at times weeping, were outside.

But the community demonstrations failed, and ICE deported Garcia de Rayos to a nation she had not called home for decades. Since arriving in Mexico, Garcia de Rayos opened a small tortilla shop using donations she received following the international publicity of the case. But with little income coming in due to surrounding competition, she can’t repair the modern but expensive machinery that has broken down since. Above all, she misses her children

After she was deported, Garcia de Rayos was reunited with her family members, many of whom she had not seen in years, including her mother and father, a sister and brother. Some she had never met, including her three nieces, who were born after she left Mexico for the United States 21 years earlier.

Being surrounded by their love helps her get through the pain of being separated from her husband and children.

She also tries to keep busy. Besides running the tortilla shop, she helps out at a stand selling cups of sliced fruit her sister and mother run in the center of town, across from the massive Catholic cathedral that anchors the town plaza.

But when darkness falls, she dreads returning to her bedroom alone.

“It is very difficult, even though I am pretty happy to be with my family here,” she says. “But once nighttime comes, I miss my children dearly.”

She points at a bed on the other side of the room, below a poster of Jesus, blond and blue-eyed, raising his hand as if giving a blessing.

“That is where my children sleep when they visit,” she says.

“At night she is tormented by the hard choices the family must face: Should her husband and American children come live with her in Mexico? Or should they stay in the United States, separated perhaps forever, clinging to hope that she may one day be allowed to legally return?” For now, Garcia de Rayos’s children,17-year-old Angel and 15-year-old Jackie, stay here and visit her during school breaks. But they shouldn’t have to move to be with their mom, because this is their country. This was Garcia de Rayos’s country, too, until the day a man who said he’d target so-called “bad hombres” was sworn into office and instead targeted a mom who just trying to work hard and provide for her kids.

Anti-Muslim commentator shares fake video to prove immigrants are dangerous

Noted anti-Muslim commentator and activist Pamela Geller included a video in the February 11 edition of her newsletter, intended to prove that immigrants posed a dangerous threat. Unfortunately, the video appears to be a hoax.

The video, titled “Immigrants in Italy,” depicts a group of people battering an Italian police car with bats and sticks while others cheer on.

By including the video in her newsletter, Gellar, who has claimed that President Obama is radical Muslim who “wants jihad to win” and has ties to white supremacists and European right-wing extremist factions, was likely attempting to capitalize off of anti-immigrant fear in Italy just weeks before the country’s general election where immigration is anticipated to be a hot button issue.

As noted by Media Matters for America, the video is in actuality an amateur recording of the shooting of an Italian film called Mediterranea. The film focuses on two friends from Burkina Faso who “experience hostility after immigrating to Italy.” The video clearly shows the film’s camera crew and production crew can be seen walking into the scene at the end of the clip, prompting the actors to stop.

The video has been debunked repeatedly by ItalianFrench, and German language websites since 2014.

Geller is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.” She has described Obama as a “third worlder and a coward” who will “do nothing but beat up on our friends to appease his Islamic overlords,” in addition to spreading a conspiracy that he is the love child of Malcolm X.

Last week, Geller appeared on a Florida radio show and called ProPublica’s latest initiative to help document hate crimes “child’s play” when compared to state-run media.

“So if you’re a Muslim and some non-Muslim looked at you funny, just report it to any one of these groups of news organizations and it too will count as a hate crime,” Geller said. “This is nefarious. This makes Soviet Pravda and state-run media look like child’s play.”

Geller’s most recent anti-immigrant smear attempt comes just ahead of Italy’s March 4 elections, which have so far been plagued with white nationalist sentiment. As ThinkProgress previously reported, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the scandal-plagued Italian media tycoon who was convicted of tax fraud in 2012, has already pledged to deport 600,000 refugees from Italy, should his allies in the far-right Northern League and Brothers of Italy win a seat in the government. Berlusconi himself is barred from running for office again because of his conviction.

“Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a leftwing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” he said in a TV interview earlier in February. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.”

Republican deputy mayor offers insincere apology after comparing immigrants with raccoons

The deputy mayor of a New Jersey town has apologized after publishing an insensitive Facebook post comparing undocumented immigrants to a raccoon infestation, the Star-Ledger, NJ’s largest online newspaper reported, and praising President Donald Trump as the exterminator.

In a now-deleted post — but captured forever in a screenshot — Roxbury Township Deputy Mayor Rick Blood (R) likened Trump’s harsh deportation policies to getting rid of a raccoon infestation in the basement.

“You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons,” Blood wrote in part. “Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately. You call the city, 4 different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job. But there is this one guy and he guarantees you to get rid of them, so you hire him.”

“Here’s why we want Trump… The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced & gutless, and illegals are everywhere,” Blood went on. “We want it all fixed!… This country is weak, bankrupt, our enemies are making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid is a special group with special rights… The raccoons have got to go.”

After the post received sharp outcry, Blood wrote a second, long Facebook post insisting that he had written his post knowing that it would be “construed as offensive to some, however it was not its intent.” He apologized three paragraphs into the Facebook post and called on lawmakers to reach an agreement “on the entire issue from the Dreamers to immigration to preventing future undocumented people from obtaining employment.”

“It is out in the public sphere and as such it is likely to exist in the digital world for quite a while,” Blood said. “I apologize for the post. There are those who will take advantage of this post to support their own position unfortunately on both sides of the issue.”

Blood is right to say the post is both offensive and had been taken advantage by “both sides” to “support their own position.” In fact, he personally took advantage of his original post to extol Trump’s immigration policies. But immigrants are not animals, diseased, nor rabid by any means. The undocumented population pay an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Two million foreign-born individuals live in his home state, the American Immigration Council reported, 500,000 of whom are undocumented and contribute to his state’s economy.

What Blood’s original post successfully does is that it dehumanize immigrants. In fact, the detention and deportation of many of those immigrants that Blood characterizes as “raccoons” ignores their humanity completely. Since the president took office, “non-criminal” arrests have doubled in the 2017 fiscal year, up to 37,734 arrests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. At least one of those immigrants facing deportation live in Blood’s state and helped rebuild the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Harry Pangemanan, an Indonesian immigrant, is now holed up in a Highland Park church to avoid arrest by ICE officials. The agency has long abided by a memo that urges agents to exercise discretion and best judgment when detaining immigrants at “sensitive locations” like churches, hospitals, and schools. Pangemanan, who has two U.S.-born children, helped to rebuild 200 houses in two Jersey Shore communities.

Story of HR Manager Who Mocked an Immigrant’s Broken English Goes Viral

Despite a recent rise in hate speech and a lack of progress in ending discriminatory hiring of minorities and immigrants, those who feel empowered to blatantly discriminate against immigrants still run the risk of being instantly outed and facing the wrath of everyday Internet activists.  

This time the victim was Minh, a Vietnamese man in Seattle, Washington, who was preemptively threatened to be sent home by a hiring manager because of his level of English. When Minh responded to a job opportunity at Dash Delivery, he received a rude, mocking email from the HR manager, saying, “Let me tell you now, if you no speak English, I will send you home” with “if you no speak English” underlined.

Minh’s daughter Emily posted the email exchange on Twitter. “Non-English speakers really have it hard bc my dad just got rejected from this job offer,” she wrote. “All of emails we’re also very unprofessional & passive aggressive.“

Her original tweet had been liked by roughly 50,000 Twitter users and had 23,000 retweets as of Feb. 8.

It didn’t take long for the tweets to be noticed by a local attorney who contacted the delivery company to report the HR manager’s behavior. Soon after, Minh and Emily received an email from Dash Delivery, saying, “Our company is an equal opportunity employer and it is proud of its diverse workforce.” The email also stated that the HR manager had been fired following the incident.

Minh’s daughter Emily has since updated the story on Twitter, stating that while they were offered assistance to pursue legal action against the company, her father has opted to move on from the incident. Emily also posted a photo of her father’s English-to-Vietnamese language notebook to show how hard he’s working to find a job.

For immigrants and minorities in general, the situation of the Huyhn family might sound familiar.

Reports of discrimination and hate speech have risen since the 2016 presidential election. A poll by NPR revealed that nearly every group in the U.S. feels they suffer from discrimination. More than 70 percent of Latinos said they feel discriminated against, compared to 92 percent of African-Americans and 61 percent of Asians.

Moreover, hiring biases in the country haven’t improved in 25 years, according to this study, and it’s particularly tough for African-Americans and Latinos. On average, white applicants receive 24 percent more callbacks than Latino applicants.

The wave of hate speech and crimes across the United States has inspired project like ProPublica’s Documenting Hate, which aims to collect data of hate crimes and discriminatory practices, and The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, which gathers data about hate groups in all 50 states.


Trump administration drafts new regulations to punish legal immigrants for taking care of their kids

The Trump administration is combining their hatred of immigrants—even the ones here legally—and of poor people in a new draft regulation obtained by Vox’s Dara Lind. The new regulations would keep legal immigrants from extending their stays, achieving permanent residence and presumably citizenship, and settling in the U.S. if they obtain any of a slew of federal, state, or local social services to which they are legally eligible. That includes if they obtain services like Head Start and CHIP for U.S.-born, citizen children.

The rule can’t make it illegal for these immigrants to obtain the services—that would require legislation—but it would give the government the power to deny their applications “for a new type of visa, or a green card, if they’d used those services.” That even includes Obamacare subsidies, which are available to solidly middle-class families—a family of four can make up to $97,200 and still qualify for the insurance subsidy. But that could put them in the category of a “public charge,” someone using government assistance.

Right now, the government can only consider use of cash benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, in “public charge” determinations. The Trump administration wants to give officials the power to look at use of other benefits as well, including:

some “educational benefits,” including use of Head Start for children
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
use of any subsidies, or purchase of subsidized insurance, under the Affordable Care Act
food stamps
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance
Housing benefits, like Section 8
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
transit vouchers

Using any of these for more than six months in the last two years (before applying for a different visa or a green card) would be considered a “heavily weighted” strike against the immigrant. (That strike could be canceled out if an immigrant was making more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level when applying for the new visa or green card—which, for a family of 4 in 2017, was $60,750.)

This is—again—punishing people who come here legally, though it isn’t apparently going to be retroactive. However, legal immigrants—other than refugees and asylees—here now who might use any of these programs after the regulations go into effect could lose the opportunity to stay here permanently.

What a welcome to America, huh?

DHS reportedly weighing rules targeting immigrants who use public benefits

The Trump administration is reportedly considering making it harder for immigrants who use public assistance to become permanent residents, Reuters reported on Thursday. It’s the latest move in a line of actions meant to crack down on documented immigration, in addition to targeting undocumented immigrants.

According to a proposal obtained by the outlet, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to propose new rules allowing immigration officers to scrutinize and consider the use of certain taxpayer-funded benefits when weighing permanent residency applications. Non-U.S. citizens living in the United States pay taxes and are legally permitted to use many public services. But the new DHS rules would seek to measure that usage, holding any perceived reliance against applicants.

“Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations,” the document reads. “An alien’s receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States.”

Among those benefits are subsidies for utility bills and assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps; the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which assists pregnant people and their children; and a number of programs assisting with transportation vouchers, education for low-income children, and even winter heating.

Health care obtained through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would also be subject to increased scrutiny. Emergency and disaster relief would reportedly be excluded, as well as free and reduced-price school lunches, Medicare, and disability insurance.

Applicants’ credit reports, along with a significant amount of personal information, could also be obtained and used by the government in order to evaluate individual usage of public benefits.

The changes would likely impact hundreds of thousands of people. Permanent residents applying for citizenship would not be subject to the rules, but people applying for permanent status would be considered a “public charge” if they depend on “any government assistance in the form of cash, checks or other forms of money transfers, or instrument and non-cash government assistance in the form of aid, services, or other relief.”

The DHS rules are the latest indicator that the Trump administration intends to crack down on immigration at every level.

The White House has repeatedly targeted undocumented immigrants, railing against sanctuary cities and ramping up deportation measures. In September, President Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive, leaving 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children in limbo. The administration has also rescinded Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from a number of countries — including Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua — leaving hundreds of thousands of people forced to return to countries facing severe domestic turmoil.

The White House has also pushed for a “merit-based” immigration system favoring highly-skilled immigrants, citing the diversity visa lottery program as one example of a system favoring “the worst” immigrants. Experts have criticized and contradicted those claims, as the diversity visa program has merit-based components and makes up a small sliver of the U.S. immigration system more broadly.

But highly-skilled immigrants and those looking to immigrate through official channels have still suffered under Trump, despite the president’s supposed desire to make room for more documented immigration. In April, the president unveiled an executive order targeting the H-1B visa, which goes to highly-skilled workers across a number of sectors, including technology, research, and academia. Last month, sources told McClatchy that DHS had implemented new policies targeting H-1B applicants with pending green card applications. Hundreds of thousands of would-be immigrants — the overwhelming majority of them Indian citizens — could be impacted if those rules take effect, subjecting them to longer wait times, increased scrutiny, and the possibility of being sent home in the interim period.

DHS officials have yet to issue a formal comment on the reported new rules impacting applicants for permanent residency. It is unclear when the policy would take effect, should it be approved.

Exclusive: Trump administration may target immigrants who use food aid, other benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering making it harder for foreigners living in the United States to get permanent residency if they have received certain public benefits such as food assistance, in a move that could sharply restrict legal immigration.