By Jennie Belle, Director, NC Council of Churches’ Farmworker and Immigration Program
Just one week into the new administration, President Donald Trump has already issued the most extreme single-day changes to immigration policy in recent memory. On January 25, he signed two Executive Orders that essentially seek to close off our borders from refugees and asylum-seekers and start an unprecedented mass detention policy. As a person of faith and a woman, I have great concerns about how these new orders will affect immigrants in my community, especially women and children seeking protection in the United States. These orders will cause great harm to thousands of Central American women, children, and families. They will permit the rounding up and removal of the hundreds of thousands of migrants living in North Carolina without papers. And they will cause heartbreaking family separation to occur and have a drastic effect on our local and national economies.
President Trump’s orders are a dramatic, radical and extreme assault on immigrants and the values of our country, as they prioritize deportation over policies that respect dignity and human worth. They will increase the powers of immigration law enforcement and cut federal funding for sanctuary cities. The first ends the policy of “catch and release,” thereby requiring the mandatory detention at the border of families and children. This is a very severe provision as it does not take into consideration vulnerable populations arriving at the border, such as pregnant women and nursing mothers. Moreover, Trump’s first executive order calls for more detention space to make deportations “cheaper and easier.” Civil rights violations have been widely reported and documented at these detention centers, violations which include lack of appropriate medical care as well as insufficient food and bedding, which is especially detrimental for women and children, many of whom are held in detention for months on end.
The second executive action reinstates the Secure Communities Program, which empowers local authorities to share fingerprints and other arrest data to help track down undocumented immigrants. Police cooperation with ICE harms those who are most vulnerable, especially women in domestic violence situations who often don’t report their abusers for fear they’ll be deported instead. Finally, the executive orders strip federal money from sanctuary cities and establish the publication of a weekly list of crimes purportedly committed by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities.
These policies are in direct violation of our religious mandate to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable. This is not about political affiliation; rather, it is a moral responsibility to demonstrate compassion and justice. Families being torn apart is wrong; women being raped or dying in the desert is wrong; children being held in detention without basic health care is wrong. We must take action to stop these things from happening. We must call on our elected representatives to ensure border enforcement policies are sensible and protect human rights, end mandatory family detention and the expansion of immigration detention, and promote family unity by keeping the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program intact. To protect the rights and dignity of immigrants and refugees, to keep their families intact, and to make the United States into a welcoming place for all migrants requires all of us working together to take action now.
Jennie Belle is the director of the NC Council of Churches’ Farmworker and Immigration Program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.