State immigration policies must be readdressed

As part of his promise to crack down on illegal immigration, President Donald Trump issued an executive and a directive memo that ends former President Barack Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program. This program delineated the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities when enforcing immigration laws, specifying that convicted felons should be the focus of its efforts. The memo also promoted partnerships between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest and deport dangerous criminals. The Trump administration also reinstated former President George W. Bush’s immigration program, Secure Communities, which focuses less on felons and instead instructs the DHS to execute “the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.” These actions reflect the administration’s tough stance on immigration but overlooks the complexity of the current immigration situation, dividing communities and creating unnecessary fear.

The language of this program has provoked fears of deportation among undocumented immigrants, including families and nonviolent individuals. Concerns were heightened on March 27 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to enforce President Trump’s executive order, mandating the cutting of federal grant programs to sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary cities are cities in which local officials refuse to report undocumented immigrants to the federal government for deportation. There is skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s order, as the Supreme Court has ruled funding can only be withheld if it is relevant “to the federal interest in the project.” Local governments with sanctuary policies receive federal money from dozens of different departments, most of which do not relate to immigration. While it may be possible for these cities to avoid budget cuts, Trump’s immigration policies are still creating conflict between local governments and federal agencies.

These policies have also created tension within the New Orleans community. Jefferson Parish has led Louisiana aiding deportations under Newell Normand, an open supporter of Trump. Between November 2009 and February 2015, the Jefferson Parish Sherriff’s Office sent the names of 6,960 undocumented immigrants to federal law enforcement, leading to 1,104 deportations. Meanwhile, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vocally opposed Trump’s immigration policies, stating that “the [New Orleans Police Department] will not be President Trump’s deportation force.” This comes after Republican leaders in the state, specifically Attorney General Jeff Landry, accused NOPD of not cooperating with federal immigration officers on raids. Republicans have also argued that New Orleans is a sanctuary city because Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has refused ICE officers’ requests to hold undocumented immigrants since 2009. Landrieu refutes this, claiming that though police officers are instructed not to ask suspects and witnesses about their immigration status, they still cooperate with the federal government on criminal warrants for undocumented immigrants.

Far from clarifying immigration policy, the Trump administration’s actions have made the issue more complex and contentious. Tensions between government officials and law enforcement have expanded within counties, cities, states and the nation as a whole.

Rather than simply reinstating Bush’s immigration policy, the administration needs to comprehensively reform the country’s policy, taking into account the issues that law enforcement and immigrants face on a local level. Furthermore, the administration must look beyond party-based rhetoric to examine how policies affect the lives of millions of people who have become important members across the nation.

 This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Madeline is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]