In 2014, there were 42.4 million immigrants living in the United States. They made up 13.3 percent of the population. India was the leading country of origin for the new immigrants that year, but Mexicans were still the largest subgroup of the 42.4 million at 28 percent. 46 percent of immigrants considered themselves Hispanic or Latino, but they are not all from Mexico.
11.1 million of the immigrants were undocumented, and eight million of them were in the workforce. Mexicans made up 52 percent of the undocumented immigrants, although that number has been declining. Two thirds of these immigrants have lived here for over ten years now. Undocumented workers pay around twelve billion in taxes every year.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, businesses closed as immigrants stayed home from work, school, grocery stores and gas stations. The “Day Without Immigrants” was a strike/boycott that came as a response to President Trump’s border wall plans and travel ban, but was not organized by any one particular group. Restaurant owners from Austin to D.C. closed locations in solidarity with their workers, despite potential financial setbacks.
Others found ways to punish those who had skipped work. There were over one hundred reported firings. In Oklahoma, the owner of Catoosa’s I Don’t Care Bar and Grill fired twelve kitchen employees who did not attend work that day. The owner, Bill McNally, stated that he has a “zero tolerance policy for no show/no call incidents.” In response, Brownie’s Hamburgers owner Dusty Oakley offered jobs at his restaurant to those who had been fired.
In Jurupa Valley, California, several teachers were put on administrative leave after making Facebook posts reveling in smaller class sizes and no “troublemakers.” Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist also made a Facebook post; hers said that TPS was committed to providing a safe environment for immigrant and transgender children. She cited the US Supreme Court case Plyler vs. Doe, which decided children have the constitutional right to an education here regardless of immigration status.
On Feb. 21, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security released additional immigration plans. These would work to speed up the deportation process, create and expand detention facilities, publicize crimes of undocumented immigrants and enlist police officers as immigration enforcers. The latter clause had already been introduced in Tulsa under former Tulsa Police Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is what allows police departments to deputize officers as ICE agents, but former President Obama largely ignored it.
Yet not everyone has. Since it is written into the act, individual police officers can choose to collaborate with ICE, even if their sheriff or city officially opposes the measure. ICE officers interviewed by the New York Times all thought that having their “shackles” removed would help them do their jobs. A couple of Washington officials expressed concern about ICE agents remarking that their jobs had become “fun.” Los Angeles, a sanctuary city, has asked ICE agents to stop referring to themselves as police because it causes residents to distrust the local police force.
Department officials emphasized that these policies only highlight existing laws. They also clarified that President Trump is not interested in modifying or eliminating DACA, the deferred action program from undocumented immigrants who were brought here at a young age. Trump said “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me … because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases.”
Nevertheless, one DACA participant, Daniel Ramirez Medina, faces deportation from Washington. His case has gained international attention, first because he had qualified for “deferred action,” and second due to accusations that federal agents lied about his case.