Posted on May 16, 2015 in Arab American Institute
Background & State of Play
Following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, organizations like AAI, who have a history advocating for practical and compassionate changes to the broken U.S. immigration code, are focusing on urgent measures to safeguard against the aggressive immigration policies promised by candidate Trump.
The list of concerning immigration proposals is reflective of a fear mongering and xenophobic approach to policymaking disguised as national security and so-called “law and order” rhetoric. President-elect Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and their White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, have proposed at various times to: triple the number of ICE deportation officers; begin the mass deportation of 11.3 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States beginning with the 2 million “criminal aliens”; have undocumented immigrants “self-deport”; completely defund Sanctuary Cities which work to protect immigrants; terminate President Obama’s executive actions which have granted amnesty to certain classes of undocumented immigrants (DACA and DAPA); build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border; and, legally challenge the 14th Amendment’s ability to grant U.S. citizenship to individuals born in the United States to a non-citizen parent.
President-elect Trump has proposed an alarming immigration overhaul that would target Arab and Muslim immigrants for travel restrictions. This includes discussion of a “Muslim Ban” which later evolved into a proposal to ban on travelers from “terror prone” regions. Trump and his advisors are reportedly considering a revival of the post-9/11 “National Security Entry-Exit Registration System” (NSEERS). NSEERS is a system for registration of certain non-citizens within the United States, required non-immigrant men and boys from predominantly Arab and Muslim-majority countries to report to an immigration office to be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed. The call-in registration process led to at least 13,000 individuals being placed in removal proceedings. For more information on NSEERS, view our separate issue brief.
One of Trump’s high profile supporters cited the WWII internment of Japanese Americans as a precedent for dealing with the threat of ISIL in the U.S. This mention, which caused widespread rebuke, led to speculation and fear about what the President-elect’s policy may be on internment.
From calling for “extreme vetting” to include ideological purity tests for incoming immigrants to specifically questioning immigrants regarding their religious views, and regularly calling for the suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, the President-elect’s immigration proposals are cause for concern and are reminiscent of some of America’s darkest days. Dating back to the early days of American history, Irish, German, Jewish, Catholic, and Japanese immigrants suffered under legal and societal harassment.
When immigration policy is used as a tool to discriminate against immigrants based on their national origin, ethnicity, or religion - it is at odds with American values. The determination of immigration status and enforcement of immigration laws must be performed humanely, and must uphold due process and the equal protection of laws.
AAI’s Immigration Policy Priorities
The current U.S. immigration system falls short of our American ideals. While AAI will continue to support the goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform, the immigration proposals that were floated during the campaign of Donald Trump and discussions during the transition require stringent and strategic opposition.
- AAI condemns immoral, unjust, and impractical proposals that would militarize federal immigration law enforcement and create a climate of fear for immigrants. Such proposals empower bias-driven policing, embolden citizen policing, and do not seek to correct obstructions to immigrants lawfully contributing to the economy.
- AAI calls for creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., addressing the massive application back log, prioritizing family reunification, and encouraging highly-skilled workers to study and reside in the United States.
- Immigration policies that are based on discriminatory frameworks must be rejected. The NSEERS regulatory framework should be removed from the codes, and no person in the United States should be subjected to surveillance, enhanced scrutiny, or travel restrictions without probable cause.
- The U.S. must uphold its values, traditions, and international obligations in providing refuge for the world’s most vulnerable. It is essential to maintain a robust, secure, and efficient refugee resettlement program.
- National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (November 2016)
- Sorting Fact From Fiction: The U.S. Immigration Process (November 2016)
- AAI Action Alert: Urge DHS to Rescind the Regulatory Framework Behind NSEERS (November 2016)