Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Ronald Mason | Immigrants, beware!

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2017 | 2:00 AM

Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Almost everything he has done on the topic of immigration and immigrants was referenced during the 18-month campaign leading to his Electoral College victory.

Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who is a former staffer for the designated attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, are behind the current immigration policy reforms. In March 2016, on a Breitbart News podcast, Bannon and Miller expressed their views on immigration. "Isn't the beating heart of this problem (legal immigration) and the real beating heart of it, of what gotta get sorted out here, not illegal immigration." They continued with Bannon asking Miller, "As horrific as that is, and it is horrific, don't we have a problem? We've looked the other way on this legal immigration that's kinda overwhelmed the country?" Miller's response was pure affirmation as he stated, "The history of America is that an immigration-on period is followed by an immigration-off period."

It should, therefore, be no surprise when on January 23, 2017, the White House produced an executive order on 'Protecting Taxpayer Resources by ensuring our Immigration Laws Promote Accountability and Responsibility'.

 

Fulfilling promises

 

This executive order fulfils several key campaign promises related to immigration by, among other things:

(1) Instructing the director of the Office of Management and Budget to compile a report detaining how the federal government will save $100 billion by ensuring that aliens receive only the public benefits that they are eligible to receive, and that the sponsors of aliens fulfil their obligations to reimburse the government for the cost of welfare benefits provided to such aliens;

(2) Requiring Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to establish new standards and regulations for determining when aliens will become subject to the 'public charge' grounds of inadmissibility and deportability (i.e., their likelihood of requiring public assistance after being admitted to the United States);

(3) Directing the commissioner of Social Security to issue a report on the impact of low-skilled foreign workers on the Social Security Trust Fund's long-term solvency;

(4) Directing the secretary of state to publish a report on the long-term costs of the Refugee Admissions Programme at the federal, state, and local levels; and,

(5) Directing Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to submit a report on the efforts that they are taking to combat the birth-tourism phenomenon.

This policy is going to prove to be a major challenge for many green card holders from Jamaica. Their status even as green card holders will be subject to what they refer to as 'extreme vetting' as to who is likely to become a 'public charge'. One can be deemed a 'public charge' within five years of entry for having received any means-tested public benefits, inclusive of child tax credit, Social Security benefits when you never made a contribution, Section 8 housing, aid to families with dependent children, temporary assistance for needy family, supplement security income, food stamps, social service block grants and Medicaid. This is as wide a net of benefits that immigrants routinely seek, and the problem with minimising the risk is that it applies to the benefits you have already collected. The policy does not seek to go forward.

The policy going forward is threefold - (1) deny admission to any alien who is likely to become a 'public charge'; (2) identify and remove, as expeditiously as possible any alien who has become a 'public charge' and is subject to removal; (3) seek reimbursement from all sponsors of immigrants for the cost of federal, means-tested public benefits provided to sponsored immigrants.

 

Penalty for non-cooperation

 

The executive order requests a report to the president within 270 days (nine months) as to how much progress is being made. Other periods for reporting are as short as six months, and others run for 18 months. Clearly, this action, in addition to the proposals to tackle undocumented aliens, is going to have a very significant effect on the Jamaican community in the USA.

Further, a promise to defund sanctuary cities in case of their non-cooperation with the federal immigration authorities seeks to set new priorities for physical removal out of the United States, those who:

- Have been convicted of any criminal offence;

- Have been charged with any criminal offence, where such charge has not been resolved;

- Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offence;

- Have engaged in fraud or wilful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a government agency;

- Have abused any programme related to receipt of public benefits; are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States.

In the judgement of an immigration officer, an immigrant might otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security. The new order will not afford 'presumption of innocence' to those who are non-citizens. The order will also increase the number of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and call for massive detentions of all 'undocumented' aliens.

The Jamaican community at home and in the USA needs to be prepared for the consequences.

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.