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Should All Illegal Immigrants Be Deported, Even If Their Families Are In The U.S.?

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 26: Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Jan. 25, Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order on immigration, expansively defining the “criminal aliens” he intends to target. He has eliminated old immigration enforcement priorities.
Now, discretion will be exercised by immigration agents with little guidance from the executive branch beyond sweeping anti-immigrant pressures.

However, terms like “criminal aliens” and “illegal immigrants” gloss over the various immigration statuses and histories of millions of individuals. We’d like to offer a more nuanced description of the individuals who may be targeted by President Trump’s immigration enforcement plans.

Our discussion is informed by our research. Since 2014, we have followed the lives of some 50 Southern California immigrants, many of whom either lack or never had legal status in the United States.

Each of these individuals has a different story of how and when they came to the United States. Some are related to U.S. citizens and some are not. They have had unique experiences studying, working and living in this country.

And now, these differences could play a major role in how individual immigrants are impacted by the new administration’s enforcement of immigration laws.

Some undocumented parents of U.S. citizens might qualify for residency through their children. However, they will still face steep barriers to legalization. For example, wait times for these family visas stretch for years. Even when visas become available, those who have spent more than one year in the country without lawful status face a 10-year bar on being able to enter the country legally.

Many cannot afford legal counsel to assist in this process. And some of these individuals may have missed prior immigration court hearings and been ordered deported without being present.

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