Students and immigration advocates discussed the local effects of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies Wednesday.
The forum familiarized attendees with the local effects of the recent governmental immigration policies, such as the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids and the feasibility of the border wall. Panelists included a representative from Grassroots Leadership and two University faculty with expertise in immigration.
Mrinalini Shah, government senior and director of the ACLU at UT, organized the panel following Trump’s recent executive orders and the introduction of Senate Bill 4, which aims to prohibit cities from becoming sanctuaries that refuse cooperation with federal immigration agents.
“It just seemed like a really important time to bring this discussion to campus,” Shah said. “Trump focused his whole campaign on immigration policy and walls, and it seems like as soon as he came into office, it was an assault on all fronts.”
Clinical law professor Elissa Steglich said Trump’s executive order on new immigration enforcement rules is especially caustic because it prioritizes deportation of undocumented individuals who have been charged with any criminal offense, even if they haven’t been legally convicted.
“The way these memos read, it actually pits every immigrant as a bad immigrant,” Steglich said. “It pits every immigrant as a law-breaker without looking at who they are, their context, all they are giving to society now.”
Olivia Mena from the Department of Mexican-American and Latino/Latina Studies analyzed the practicality of Trump’s border wall, considering the federal government’s past failed tries to build a wall. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 commissioned over 600 miles of fencing and as of last August, parts of it were still being constructed.
“This is coming at a time when Mexican immigration is at the lowest levels since the 1970s,” Mena said. “This intensity to qualify the southern border of the U.S. as this super dangerous border... doesn’t align with the realities of declining immigration.”
One of the attendees, Maria Palomares Carranco, a Mexican-American and Arabic studies junior, said she came because she had a duty as a former undocumented immigrant to learn more about how to advocate for them.
“Seeing my mom’s fear (of being deported) as a five year-old scared me,” Carranco said. “So it’s not fair, even though I’m documented now, to just remove myself from that community.”