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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

President Trump’s immigration policies tearing families apart

The Trump administration’s attacks on immigrant communities worsen by the day.

Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are taking children from their parents. ICE agents are raiding homes and workplaces and stalking immigrants at courthouses.

Last week, they even detained Pablo Villavicencio as he arrived at a Brooklyn military base to deliver a pizza. Simply put, ICE is using every tool at its disposal to tear immigrant families apart.

This strategy is firmly rooted in an ideology of white supremacy that seeks to wipe immigrant communities off the map. It’s clear enough from President Trump’s racist slurs to describe immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Just as important is Trump’s inner circle, which is filled with immigration advisers who have direct ties to hate groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies.

These groups trace back to notorious eugenicist John Tanton, and they have had an enormous impact on Trump policies.

In short, the administration is doing the bidding of white nationalists who want to eliminate our communities. So, when someone like the official at the military base in Brooklyn calls ICE, or threatens to call ICE like ranting lawyer Aaron Schlossberg did last month, remember that they are complicit in that nefarious plot.

In the face of Trump’s onslaught, and given that the Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to act to protect immigrants, New York’s leaders must step up.

Here’s how: The most pressing issue for New York State is to restore access to driver’s licenses to all, regardless of immigration status.

Many immigrant New Yorkers need to drive to get to work, take their kids to school, and do their jobs — like Mr. Villavicencio, who was unable to present a driver’s license at the base — but are now at grave risk of deportation for minor traffic violations.

Driver’s-licenses-for-all legislation has been introduced in the Assembly and Senate, and legislators should pass it immediately.

Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo has the authority to take executive action — even if it leads to a significant legal battle — and he should fix this problem right now.

New York State should also draw a bright line between immigration enforcement and state and local law enforcement by passing the Liberty Act, as well as passing new legislation to limit ICE’s ability to make courthouse arrests.

New York City must also shore up legal defenses for immigrants. The city created a first-of-its-kind universal defense program for immigrants facing deportation, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.

But Mayor de Blasio is trying to limit access to project, and other city-funded immigration legal services, to those with no prior interactions with the criminal justice system.

The policy will deprive many immigrants of due process, and lead to more families torn apart. As 25 members of the City Council argued yesterday in a letter to de Blasio, the mayor must reverse course.

Under Trump’s leadership, ICE is determined to destroy our communities.

Our state and our city must stand up and resist.

Javier H. Valdés is co-executive director of Make the Road New York, the largest grass-roots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @JavierHValdes @maketheroadny.