Immigrants in the United States Living in Fear

Garth Rose

Source: Al Jazeera/Getty

Being an immigrant living in the United States of America means living in a constant state of fear. There is no safe haven when the country that you so desperately want to call home gives constant reminders that you do not belong.

Just last week, President Donald Trump put a pause on the massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids scheduled for ten major cities across America. Even though the halt may seem like good news for immigrants, they still live on edge, terrified of being ripped away from their loved ones and forced to endure inhumane living conditions in detention centers.

Who will stand up for immigrant communities?

Fear is rapidly becoming a common factor within America’s immigrant community—whether they are documented or undocumented residents. In the not too distant past, the fear of deportation and discrimination mainly affected those who were undocumented, but the fear meter has ratcheted upwards and wider since 2015 when anti-immigrant arguments became bolder. It intensified the results of the 2016 election, particularly when one of the first actions of the new administration was to sign an executive order banning entry to the U.S. to people from several Muslim countries.

Since then, the anti-immigrant debate has become louder and related actions taken by the current administration fosters fear and insecurity among immigrants—including some who are even U.S. citizens.

Investigation of citizens

There have been reports that cases of immigrant citizens are being reinvestigated to determine if they falsified information or otherwise lied on their applications and/or during citizenship interviews. There is a growing perception that immigrants are no longer welcomed in America, and fears that one day those who have already been welcomed could have the welcome mat removed from their door.

Revocation of TPS

Since 2017, some immigrants in the Caribbean community have felt particularly uncomfortable due to new policies. For example, there have been threats to remove the special Temporary Protective Status (TPS) offered to Haitians since the devastating 2010 earthquake, and several hurricanes since, despite the prevailing negative socio-economic situation in Haiti.

Policies are being reviewed (or have changed), which could also make it more difficult for immigrants who are residing here legally with job-related visas. In fact, a confusing range of policies are being proposed which will make it more difficult for legal immigrants to sponsor their close relatives in the Caribbean to enter America; and others which could easily have a legal immigrant deported without a court hearing if that immigrant did not meet specific requirements.

Uncertainty Regarding DACA

Then, there is the prevailing fear among young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children, and have lived, studied, and worked in America ever since. These immigrants were rightly taken into consideration by the former Obama administration under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which offered legal status to live in the U.S. The incumbent administration has deliberately threatened to end this program and would have, were it not for the intervention of the courts. There is also the attempt to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census, which opponents argue will further dissuade immigrants from filling out the census, producing an inaccurate count, which would significantly affect areas with large immigrant populations.

Sanctuary cities outlawed

In some U.S. communities, including in South Florida, immigrants who feared apprehension and deportation from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been able to receive sanctuary, but recently, Florida’s legislature outlawed sanctuary in the state. Moreover, Washington also disapproves of the role of sanctuary cities nationwide.

Meanwhile, there are continued reports of ICE apprehending immigrants on buses and trains, and executing raids on immigrant communities in several cities. Just last week, there was a surprising and frightening announcement of approval given to ICE to raid homes of immigrants and remove those deemed illegal or with criminal records. This process was temporarily halted on the eve of its planned execution, but the threat still looms. This is clearly an insecure environment for the immigrant community.

Real predicament for Caribbean Americans

Some immigrants from the Caribbean find themselves in a peculiar predicament. No longer feeling comfortable in the current environment in the U.S., they would like to return to their respective countries but are weary of conditions, including crime and violence, poor healthcare and weak economies back home.

Since President Trump seems to be making immigration the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, it will likely be front and center in the 2020 election debates.

Democratic Party candidates reveal plans

In fact, in the first night of the Democratic presidential debates, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, two of the first candidates to lay out detailed immigration proposals, went head-to-head on some key differences in their plans, particularly the law that criminalizes “illegal entry.” Castro is a strong proponent of repealing “Section 1325” in the U.S. Code, which makes illegal entry into the U.S. a federal crime, and he also got other candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Tim Ryan to agree on this point. Beto O’Rourke was the only candidate on the debate stage that refused to endorse a repeal. Under Castro’s plan, family separation would not even be a possibility, since there would be no criminal prosecution for illegal entry.

Many of the Democratic candidates are stressing improvements in healthcare, minimum wage, employment, affordable higher education but, for immigrants, those benefits will pale in comparison to their families being torn apart, their uncertain fates, and the emotional stress of living in fear.

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