Last night, President Donald Trump delivered the first address to Congress of his short but disastrous presidency. For more than an hour, the president engaged in the empty rhetoric of unity and concern for all Americans in a speech completely divorced from the reality of harm he has already inflicted on America’s most vulnerable communities. In just five short weeks, the Trump administration has rolled out policy after policy that tramples on core American ideals.
On January 27, President Trump issued his most infamous executive order instituting the discriminatory Muslim ban he campaigned on. Immediately he banned all Syrian refugees from the country indefinitely, suspended all other refugee admissions for 120 days, and prohibited the entry of people from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. The order also slashed refugee resettlement in the United States from 110,000 to 50,000.
Chaos engulfed the international aviation system as the U.S. began barring people already cleared to enter the country. One of those affected was our client Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi translator who risked his life working for the U.S. Army in Iraq. Upon arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, immigration agents detained Darweesh and told him he would be deported back to Iraq.
Immediately the ACLU and other allied organizations challenged the executive order. And in court after court, federal judges blocked it from taking effect, handing the administration stinging rebuke after rebuke. Darweesh and others like him were allowed into the country, sometimes with crowds of well-wishers at the airport welcoming them.
The administration, however, hasn’t let up. It will release its second attempt at a Muslim ban that will seek to pass constitutional muster, but the stench of discrimination will hover over these attempts forever. We will continue to fight it, in the court of law and in the court of public opinion.
The administration has also caused human misery in the area of domestic immigration enforcement. Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly signed two memos laying out the blueprint for interior and border immigration enforcement. The directives combined with heavy-handed enforcement actions around the country demonstrate that Trump’s mass deportation machine is kicking into gear.
Today we have a new promise for President Trump: We have not yet begun to fight.
Although President Trump says he will only deport the worst of the worst, the memos abandon prioritizing the deportation of people who committed serious crimes. Rather the Trump administration has laid out a vision whereby almost all of the 11 million undocumented people inside the country could be deported. The story of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos is instructive here.
On February 8, Garcia was arrested during her yearly check-up with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and quickly deported. Garcia is a wife and a mother of two teenage children. Her crime? She used a fake Social Security number to land a job at a water park to help feed and clothe her family.
But Kelly’s directives do much more than just discard humane discretion in immigration enforcement. They will also dismantle due process by expanding expedited removal. Under the policy, an enforcement agent not a judge determines whether or not to deport someone.
The memos also demolish the wall between immigration enforcement and policing by resurrecting two discredited and unlawful programs. One is the Secure Communities program, which violates the Fourth Amendment by pressing state and local law enforcement to detain an individual on suspicion of being undocumented without a judge’s say so. The second is the 287(g) program, which turns ordinary police officers into immigration enforcement agents to the detriment of public safety. When immigrants fear that reporting a crime could lead to their own deportation or someone they know, they won’t do it, as many police officials have stated clearly.
I could go on about the damage President Trump has done in such a short time. From rolling back civil rights protections for transgender students to trampling on the sovereignty and treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and from reviving the federal government’s use of private prisons to his overall contempt for the First Amendment, Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to an open and free society.
We were not fooled by the more restrained nature of President’s Trump speech last night. He is a one-man constitutional crisis already in violation of the Constitution. Since the day after the election, we have been organizing our resistance to the greatest threat to American civil rights and civil liberties in living memory.
After Trump secured the Republican nomination, we promised him that if he were to implement his unconstitutional policies that we would see him in court. We kept our word. And today we have a new promise for him: We have not yet begun to fight.