CGRS Responds to State of the Union Address, Condemns White House Immigration Framework
San Francisco, CA (January 31, 2018) – The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) condemns the hardline immigration policies promoted in yesterday’s State of the Union address, including measures that target asylum seekers. Despite disingenuous calls for unity, President Trump has in fact doubled down on the divisive and nativist immigration framework released by the White House last week. In exchange for a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-eligible youth, the White House seeks to shut out refugees and asylum seekers, limit family-based immigration, erode due process rights, and gut protections for unaccompanied children. CGRS calls on Congress to reject the harmful policy proposals and rhetoric of the Trump Administration and to pass a clean Dream Act.
The White House immigration framework mischaracterizes the fair treatment of unaccompanied children and asylum seekers as dangerous “legal loopholes.” In his State of the Union address President Trump expounded on this idea, falsely claiming that “deadly loopholes” had allowed members of the gang MS-13 to enter the country as unaccompanied children. In fact, MS-13 is a transnational gang with roots in Los Angeles, and authorities report that its stateside chapters recruit many of their members here in the United States. Troublingly, the president’s words conflate perpetrators of gang violence with their victims; in recent years, many unaccompanied children from Central America have arrived at our southern borderfleeing persecution by gangs like MS-13. The so-called loopholes that the White House is intent on closing are reasonable, limited protections that exist to prevent the unlawful return of such children and other vulnerable populations to persecution and trafficking.
The White House’s proposals also call for the “prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of country of origin” and make no exception for children, seeming to target provisions for unaccompanied children under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The TVPRA ensures care and custody of children from non-contiguous countries who arrive alone and allows them to present initial claims to an asylum officer. Eliminating these key protections would place countless refugee children at risk of return to perilous circumstances. In another provision, the White House framework proposes measures designed to target asylum seekers at our borders, presumably by increasing the use of expedited processes that allow the government to deport individuals without a hearing, or through “turn backs” that systematically deny asylum seekers access to any process at all. However, “turn backs” violate our obligations under domestic and international law, and expedited removal processes are riddled with due process problems. Such measures would have dire implications for asylum seeking children and families, undoubtedly resulting in refoulement of many refugees.
The White House’s immigration framework, if enacted, would severely undermine access to the U.S. asylum system and result in the unlawful deportation of refugees to life-threatening violence. It is cruel and unacceptable for the White House to use immigrant youth as political bargaining chips to advance a xenophobic, anti-refugee agenda. Congress must immediately pass a clean Dream Act that provides a path forward for our young people without jeopardizing the safety and well-being of other immigrant and refugee communities.
Response to Trump State of the Union Address by Melanie Nathan, African Human Rights Coalition:
In my capacity as Executive Director for African HRC we are commenting on the Donald J. Trump 2018 State of the Union address to a joint session of the United States Congress as follows:
Noting several Democratic members of Congress chose to boycott the session so as not to normalize this United States presidency, most Democratic representatives wore black to support the #MeToo movement, with Melania Trump in all white, a stark contrasting unsupportive statement, this was no ordinary State of the Union #SOTU!
We find the speech laced with nuances, innuendos and some instances explicit statements that were both divisive and offensive, especially to our immigrant community. Much of what a decent president should have said was missing with regard to several aspect of our state of the Union.
As an organization which provides advocacy and humanitarian assistance to LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers as well as communities around the world, we were disturbed by how Trump seemed to attempt pit Americans against immigrant communities.
The normalizing of this man as president by his own party and even by some Democrats is of great concern, as we believe America is already in a serious constitutional crisis, headed for worse, where many aspects of our Democracy are under threat.
We would like to note that no matter how difficult the terrain, we will continue to fight for the right to safety and happiness for all, to include our global constituents, as they seek refuge from persecution, and all the while we are well able to continue to nurture our American spirit, as we consider all LGBTI people part of our global and American family.
Raaheela Ahmed, New American Leaders:
Last night, Donald Trump commandeered American values to sell his twisted vision for a “safe, strong, and proud America”.
People of color were used as props while DREAMers were thrown under the bus. Taking a knee was deemed unpatriotic and diversity visa recipients labeled terrorists.
He may have had a “new American moment” last night, but what we have is a New American movement. And this is what it looks like:
Portland, Maine City Councilman Pious Ali:
“Donald Trump’s first SOTU speech is nothing but a collection of political sound bites patched together to rally his base. He offered bipartisan efforts on one side of his mouth and iron clad rhetoric on the other side.”
“Saying that immigrants are taking jobs from poor Americans is pitching one marginalized group against the other and is not good leadership. It fosters the environment for one group to hate another.”
“What our country needs now is a leader who knows how to create a bipartisan unified platform to solve the myriad issues facing our country. It’s time for Donald Trump to move from divisive campaign rhetoric and lead.”
Michigan State House Representative Stephanie Chang:
“America is great because of the American people – and that means every single one of us, no matter one’s race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, religion, or sexual orientation. A ‘safe, strong, and proud America’ is an America that stands up for all of us, not just a few at the top, by making sure we have an economy that works for everyone, an immigration system that is fair and humane, a smart justice system, and clean air, water and land.”
“Promises of bipartisanship need to translate into real results that help our DREAMers. Talk about the American Dream and prosperity needs to be more than talk – the most vulnerable in our communities deserve to have the resources needed in order to thrive. Politics and policy out of Washington over the past year has been simultaneously terrifying and catalyzing. My hope is that we move forward together in a way that truly respects and values all Americans.”
Arizona State House Representative Isela Blanc:
“Trump may have toned down his rhetoric last night but his message was the same: our community doesn’t matter.”
“Buried under the platitudes was a vision for a ‘safe, strong, and proud America’ that is fundamentally opposed to who we are as a nation. Trump continuously used the word ‘unity’ but spent the entire speech sowing division and pitting one group against another. Just like his attempt to trade DREAMers for a wall and reduced immigration, we will not be fooled.”
“We can only build a ‘safe, strong, and proud America’ by standing up for our values. We need an economy that is fair, an immigration policy that is compassionate, and a leader that values every life, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”