In his first week as president, Donald Trump wasted no time fulfilling his campaign promises of “building a wall” and “banning Muslims” from the United States. On Wednesday, January 25th, Trump issued his Executive Order, ordering the immediate construction of a border wall with Mexico and called for a newly expanded force to sweep up immigrants who are illegally in the country. This order would also revive programs that allow the federal government to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain illegal immigrants with criminal records and share information to help track and deport them. Trump then issued another Executive Order that suspended all Syrian refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days.
Elected Democratic officials from all over the state did not wait to lambast Donald Trump’s orders. In a news conference in the state’s capital of Sacramento, state Democrats announced they were prepared to fight over sanctuary cities in court. They had also hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to represent them in legal battles with the White House.
Sanctuary Cities and Criminal Law
It should be noted that the entire state of California is pretty much a sanctuary city. A 2014 law passed in the state prohibits jails from holding non-citizens any longer than required by criminal law, with exceptions for violent and serious crimes. Most counties in the state also prohibit holding immigrants beyond their sentence if federal immigration agents do not have a judicial order.
Regardless of California’s policies, Trump’s federal policies still stand to affect certain groups of undocumented immigrants. In particular, presidential administrations have prioritized the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions. Trump’s order prioritizes anyone who has been charged with a crime, whether or not convicted. It also called on the federal administration to rely more on state and local law enforcement agencies to carry out its priorities. Given how broadly the administration has interpreted the word “criminal,” this may also include immigrants with unsubstantiated gang affiliations.
Trump has also cited in his speeches that there were two to three million “criminal aliens.” A 2015 study from the Migration Policy Institute reported there were only 820,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions in the United States. Regardless of how minor your charge is, it is recommended you work with a lawyer if you are an immigrant facing criminal prosecution. Continue reading