As per estimates by South Asian Americans Leading Together, currently, more than 450,000 people of Indian origin living in the U.S. are stated to be undocumented.. In an executive order, President Donald Trump stated, he will withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” which provide protection from deportation to the nation’s 11 million undocumented residents, and reauthorized the “Secure Communities” program.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” stated Trump in the executive order. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” he said.
The freshman Senator from California, Kamala Harris, a Democrat, said in a press statement: “Because of these executive orders, our nation is now less safe: immigrants will report fewer crimes, more families will live in fear, and our communities and local economies will suffer.”
“California has an outsized stake in this fight. No state has more immigrants than we do – both documented and undocumented. I intend to continue fighting back aggressively and speaking up for the vulnerable communities that are being attacked by this administration,” she said.
The new law has been criticized for racial profiling, as law enforcement officials can pick up anyone they suspect of being undocumented. In a joint press release issued Jan. 26 by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and SABA, the organizations noted that Trump’s “xenophobic executive orders” target people of color and encourage racial and religious profiling of Muslims and Sikhs, among others.
“Today’s executive orders push the nation further away from core American values of equality and freedom, sow fear in communities of color that already face increasing violence, hostility and attacks, and make us and the country less safe — all under the guise of national security,” stated Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT, in a press statement.
The Secure Communities program mandates local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Under the aegis of the program, police have the authorization to ask for proof of residency from anyone they interact with. That information is then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine whether the person has committed a deportable offense.
Sanctuary cities are those that have stated they will not participate in the Secure Communities program, and provide protection from deportation to undocumented residents within their jurisdiction. Trump has pledged to strip federal dollars from sanctuary cities.
As per analysts, legal permanent residents can also be deported if they have committed an aggravated felony, or a crime of moral turpitude, which is vaguely defined. Laws vary from state to state, but in New York, for example, evading a subway fare would potentially make a legal resident deportable. In other states, a traffic violation could lead to the deportation of a legal resident.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s Los Angeles chapter held a press conference Jan. 26, decrying the president’s action. “We are deeply troubled by the direction of our country and this administration’s apparent desire to appease his anti-immigrant and white supremacist supporters,” said the organization in a press statement.
Lakshmi Sridaran, director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT, is reported to have stated: “For the first time, we are seeing an impact throughout the entire spectrum of our immigration system,” she said. “Everyone is under suspicion,” stated Sridharan. “It is a recipe for disaster,” she said, reinforcing the fact that law enforcement can ask for proof of residency from legal and undocumented residents.
“Essentially, the police officer in a local community cannot just walk up to you and ask for your papers, but they can arrest you for something and then send your biometric data to DHS or ICE, who will then run your information through a database to determine if you are here legally,” she clarified.
Aravinda Pillalamarri, 47, an Indian-American woman was stopped, quizzed about immigration status in the United States. Aravinda Pillalamarri, along with her husband had been the inspiration behind Shahrukh Khan’s film Swades, was stopped and asked by police if she was in the US “illegally”, an incident which comes amid rising fears over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
She was walking in her Bel Air neighborhood in Maryland on the morning of December 21, a routine with her, when she said she was stopped by a Bel Air Police Department officer, The Baltimore Sun reported. Pillalamarri, who was born in India but moved with her parents to the US when she was young, was asked by the police officer about what she was doing and she replied that she was walking.
The officer continued to ask several questions. When she asked why the officer was asking her so many questions, he replied because someone had called police. “Walking while brown?” Pillalamarri then asked the officer.
The report said a police supervisor arrived at the scene and began to question Pillalamarri more aggressively. The supervisor told her she wasn’t free to leave because she “was under criminal investigation”.
She was asked why she didn’t have an identification with her. “Why don’t you have ID?” she said the supervisor asked her. “Are you here illegally?” Once the officers had run her name through their computer system, Pillalamarri said, she was allowed to leave and walked to her home, just a few doors away. Pillalamarri has lived in Bel Air for more than 30 years and is a US citizen. Her parents came to America from India when she was a baby. She went to Bel Air High School.
“Only when the supervisor asked ‘are you here illegally’ did my sense of colour, and of being unequal, come forth and my interest in my civil rights took a back seat to get out of the situation safely,” she was quoted as saying.
“Public safety does not need to come at the cost of civil rights,” she added. “I am sharing this incident here not to ask anyone here to find fault or take sides. We are all on the same side and can use this as an opportunity to learn and improve. The responsibility to uphold civil rights is one that all of us share, and we need to do our part and also expect the police to do their part.”
All legal residents are encouraged to carry their green cards. Undocumented residents will live in fear of any type of interaction with police and are unlikely to seek help from law enforcement when needed.