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By TIM PADGETT FEB 11, 2017
Khizr Khan is the immigrant Gold Star father who denounced presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Before receiving an award Friday night in Miami, he spoke with WLRN about immigration controversies national – and local.
Pakistani-Americans Khan and his wife lost their U.S. Army officer son Humayun Khan in Iraq when he confronted a suicide bomber. Last year they became the face of opposition to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims like themselves.
Khan said he’s heartened that a federal appeals court has blocked President Trump’s travel ban for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. But he worries the damage may have been done.
"What concerns me is that internationally, 1.6 billion Muslims feel that America is against them," said Khan. "By this ban we have given the platform to those who wish us ill in the world.”
Khan is receiving the America's Immigrant Spirit Award from the Miami-based non-profit Americans for Immigrant Justice. The group is one of many that have criticized Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for complying with Trump's call to cooperate with federal detentions of undocumented immigrants. Khan too is reminding local governments they are not compelled to take part in federal immigration enforcement. (Gimenez argues Trump's order is legal. Trump is threatening to withhold federal funding for local and state governments that don't assist.)
“Hispanics, Muslims, we all have equal rights," said Khan. "And that is the message I wish our local leadership to understand.”
Khan added he hopes this week’s court decision will help reduce anti-Muslim hate crimes.
In the past few days, we have heard our new President deliver on many of his promises: close the border, create a massive “deportation force,” ban Muslims from entering our country. The latest blow came yesterday when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez ordered county jail officials to keep immigrants jailed until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials pick them up. This decision flies in the face of a 2013 resolution unanimously passed by our County Commissioners. Mayor Giménez said he reversed course after Trump signed an Executive Order threatening to cut funds to “Sanctuary Cities.”
The County’s cooperation with ICE during the Obama administration led to the deportation of an unprecedented number of immigrants with no criminal history or minor traffic violations only. It cost County taxpayers $12.5 million a year. Countless families were torn apart. The fallout of mass deportations nationwide has been devastating, especially for vulnerable children, many of whom ended up in foster care following their parent’s removal.
In our report, written in conjunction with Florida International University’s Research Institute, False Promises: The Failure of Secure Communities in Miami-Dade County, we analyzed 2000 arrest records and told the stories of immigrants stopped by local police and turned over to ICE by County officials. Stories like Alberto’s, who was arrested for driving without a license and transferred to Miami’s Krome Detention Center where he was not allowed to contact his wife to inform her of where he was or what had happened to him. His wife, Marta, said:
“This is the hardest thing that my family has gone through. I don’t wish this experience on anyone, not even my worst enemy. I can’t sleep at night. My children can’t sleep at night. My children who went from straight A students are now failing their classes because they can’t focus. My youngest son has a hard time eating and is going through such severe depression that I’ve had to put him under psychiatric care.”
Marta and Alberto were homeowners and have four children, two are U.S. citizens.
The majority of Miami’s residents are immigrants and Mayor Giménez’s decision has sent shock waves through our community and beyond. And it will make our community less safe, as immigrants increasingly fear reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Most importantly, Trump’s directive is unconstitutional. The federal government cannot tell local governments to do their bidding or risk losing federal dollars. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the federal government may not “commandeer” state and local officials by compelling them to enforce federal law.
Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders this week included calls for renewed cooperation between local police and ICE. Programs like this are far reaching, disrupting and tear apart honest and hardworking families. In a climate that encourages overzealous policing, elaborate dragnets often employ racial profiling. Although many police chiefs are opposed, such agreements are also increasingly attractive to many sheriffs who see this as an easy way to mollify angry constituents.
For years ICE detainees have been the fastest growing prison population in the country. During Obama’s tenure, this population skyrocketed and a record 2.4 million immigrants were removed. The alarming increase in ICE detention is in part due to a 2009 Congressional mandate, appropriating funds every year to maintain at least 34,000 immigrant detention beds daily, at a cost to US taxpayers of about $2 billion a year. No other law enforcement agency has quotas for the number of people it must jail. With good reason.
The real beneficiaries of the bed mandate are county jails and to a larger extent the private prison industry, whose two largest contractors, the GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Correctional Corporation of America), have seen their stocks soar in recent years. Not surprisingly, for-profit businesses have spent millions lobbing Congress to keep the quota.
Over the years, AI Justice has provided ample evidence that the barrage of anti-immigrant laws and regulations, often propelled by racist rhetoric, is an assault on the fundamental civil liberties of all. Our research also makes clear that driving immigrants further underground does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. It only makes matters worse.
On election night I sat with several bright, energetic and hardworking young immigrants, each with boundless promise, who broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. It was heartbreaking. Since the election our phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from immigrant youth terrified that they’re about to be deported. Countless kids all across America have lost hope that their dreams of living freely and openly in the only country they call home will ever come true.
Instead, they have been painfully reminded of what their life in America was like before President Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012: fearing a police knock on the door, a rushed good-bye to family and friends….weeks or months in detention…then abruptly being shipped away to a country as foreign as Mars.
Some 65,000 students graduate high school each year and face bleak prospects, regardless of their talent and potential to significantly contribute to the country they love and call home. Brought to America as children, often as infants, by parents who risked everything to provide their kids safety and a better future, they are as American as any other kids. Every close friend, every tear, every pledge of allegiance has been in the United States. While DACA has been a lifeline for upwards of 800,000 DREAMer applicants, providing them temporary relief from deportation and an opportunity to pursue their dreams, it is not a path to permanent legal status. Indeed, it can be revoked at any time.
Our President-elect has promised to end DACA on his first day in office, and can do so with the stroke of a pen on January 21st. Rounding DREAMers up wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Every DACA applicant had to provide Immigration officials with their contact information. Recently, Trump has appeared to backtrack, telling reporters they’re “going to work something out” with DREAMers. However, he has not yet reneged on his promise to quickly revoke all of Obama’s executive orders, including DACA.
Meanwhile, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are garnering support for the BRIDGE Act, which would preserve key elements of DACA. More than 500 college and university presidents have also urged our country’s leaders to continue and expand DACA, as have several big-city mayors.
While this is welcome news, without the passage of legislation such as the failed “DREAM Act,” these kids will remain in legal limbo, unable to live “normal” lives or fully shine. The initial “DREAM Act” bill was introduced in 2001, and re-introduced over the years.
In January 2010, four of our clients walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington DC to promote the DREAM Act and the need for immigration reform. These four “Dream walkers,” as they were called, reflected the aspirations of other immigrant youth who live in two worlds. They did not choose to come here as first-generation immigrants, but most attended U.S. primary and secondary schools and share the same interests and dreams as their US-born classmates. The “Trail of Dreams” gave birth to a nationwide coalition of DREAMers who “came out” as undocumented, and it created a national campaign calling for reform.
Sadly, the 2010 DREAM Act legislation fell just five votes short of passage. If it had succeeded, immigrant youth would now have a reasonable path to citizenship and the ability to maximize their potential. The 2013 bipartisan Senate Immigration Reform bill included the DREAM Act, but never made it to the House floor despite considerable support.
Passage of a DREAM bill is not only morally right, it is just plain smart. It would stop the immense brain drain that occurs when ambitious young people are deported or blocked from achieving their full potential. Were their talents unleashed, these new Americans would earn, spend and invest heavily in the U.S. economy.
Endowed with resilience and a strong work ethic, DREAMers already contribute to our economy and our tax base, balancing our aging population and growing our nation’s GDP. A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that ending DACA would reduce the U.S. GDP by at least $433.4 billion over 10 years. In 2010 the Congressional Budget Office estimated that passing a DREAM Act would over a decade reduce the federal deficit by $1.4 billion, and would increase government revenues by $2.3 billion.
In the aftermath of the November election, when the color of one’s skin or a foreign accent can too easily subject immigrants to abuse and discrimination, the fight for fair, just immigration reform is more critical than ever. We can and should dare to dream that America can achieve meaningful and lasting comprehensive immigration reform that benefits ALL of America. Congress and the new administration need to work on passing the DREAM Act, ideally as part of a comprehensive Immigration Reform package.
It’s time to stop the colossal waste of talent that our country can’t afford by enacting legislation that offers immigrant youth a path to permanent legal status and higher education. Our hope is that our President-elect will not only preserve and extend DACA, but will work closely with both political parties to ensure that these deserving kids can finally pursue their dreams. Hundreds of thousands of DREAMers and millions of U.S. citizens are hoping and praying that he will.
We need to consider where we’re allocating money, time and energy
AI Justice was listed as one of a handful of organizations that "are crucial in the fight for the rights of those most likely to be under attack when President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence take office in January."
La Universidad Saint Thomas le dio media beca y sus padres se esforzaron para pagar la otra mitad de los estudios. Pero Pendola no podía trabajar. Al menos no legalmente. Llegó a Estados Unidos en el 2001, a los 10 años de edad, junto a sus padres, cuando los turistas argentinos no necesitaban visa para entrar. La familia se quedó en el país indocumentada.
When Fort Lauderdale high school senior Minaldy Cadet got his acceptance letter from Boston College in March, he thought the life he had dreamed of was finally within reach.
“It was incredible. One of the best feelings ever,” Cadet recalled. “As soon as I saw their email, as soon as I opened it up and read the congratulations, I just instantly started running around my house saying, ‘Yah! I got accepted!’”
But the family soon discovered that an immigration paperwork mistake 17 years ago could derail Cadet’s dreams and his family’s future.
Cheryl Little on Trump's recent immigration speech.