California’s Dreamers are safe for now, but Trump’s war on immigrants continues

Dozens of people rally in downtown Los Angeles in February 2017 to protest raids by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Dozens of people rally in downtown Los Angeles in February 2017 to protest raids by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Los Angeles Times/TNS

In President Donald Trump’s war on immigrants in Sacramento and across California, it’s a time for vigilance – and a time to thank judges.

In the latest raids by federal agents, more than 150 undocumented immigrants have been arrested since Sunday across Northern California and the Central Valley, including at least 10 in Sacramento and five in Merced.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement appears to want to demonstrate that California isn’t off limits just because it has declared itself a sanctuary state. It’s a petty point, and Trump is unnecessarily frightening families and threatening entire communities in proving it.

In confirming the sweep, ICE on Tuesday night criticized officials in sanctuary cities such as Oakland and San Francisco, saying they are endangering its agents and increasing “collateral arrests” of people they are not targeting. Yet it’s difficult to blame local officials for trying to warn immigrants about potential raids, as Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf did Saturday.

ICE says it is targeting undocumented immigrants who are a danger to national security or public safety; it said that in the new raids, half of those arrested were criminals. The agency said that in 2016-17, 81 percent of 20,200 people arrested in California were convicted criminals.

But its own figures indicate the real spike is in arrests of immigrants without any criminal record. In the last quarter of 2017, that number nearly tripled to 13,548 from the same three months of the Obama administration in 2016, and total arrests jumped by 43 percent.

Or course, it could be worse. On Monday, at least, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request for a quick ruling so he could end protections as soon as March 5 for Dreamers, the 700,000-plus immigrants who were brought here illegally as children – some 200,000 of them in California, including 20,000 in Sacramento.

The high court decided that the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, should first hear the administration’s appeal of a January injunction by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco that prevents Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program until legal challenges are fully considered.

While this delay isn’t a permanent fix – much less a path to citizenship – it does keep Dreamers safe from possible deportation until at least the end of 2018, and perhaps longer. Those whose two-year DACA permits expire this year will be allowed to apply for renewals to keep working and going to college here.

This legal standoff also frees Democrats in Congress from being held hostage to protect Dreamers. Trump is trying to force through a terrible immigration plan that calls for spending as much as $25 billion for his border wall – a grotesque waste of money – and for ending programs that reunify families and diversify immigrants – a denial of America’s character. And if Democrats can retake control of the House or the Senate, or both, in the November election, they would be in a much stronger negotiating position for fair immigration reform.

Not just on DACA, it has been the 9th Circuit blocking the worst excesses from this White House on immigration. Its judges have blocked two of Trump’s travel bans from mostly Muslim countries, as well as an order to block federal funding to sanctuary cities.

That has drawn the ire of Trump, who groused again Monday: “Nothing’s as bad as the 9th Circuit. It’s really sad when every single case filed against us is in the 9th Circuit.”

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit and ruled that immigrants – even permanent legal residents and those seeking asylum – can be held indefinitely without periodic bond hearings, even for minor alleged crimes.

The Trump administration’s assault on immigrants is taking many forms – raids and deportations, but also more symbolic moves. Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changed its mission statement by deleting a “nation of immigrants” and emphasizing border security.

Whitewashing history fools no one. Still, the president has made clear that we can’t take the rule of law for granted, or assume he’ll abide by the fundamental principles of democracy.

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