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Immigration: Lives in the Shadows HOT TOPICS Report

Dean Johnson  | Published on 6/14/2017

Immigration is one of those issues that can make your brain freeze and your head ache because of its many facets, complications and ramifications.

One thing for sure: There’s a lot we don’t know. At the League of Women Voters’ Wednesday Hot Topics, we got an education, chiefly from Sister Ann Kendrick, long associated with the Hope Community Center in Apopka, and John Gihon, former senior attorney with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The remarkable Sister Ann, who has worked with immigrant farm workers and their families for more than 40 years, is obviously on the front lines. She said the situation isn’t any better than it has been in the past. “This is people’s lives,” she said.  What we don’t know is the fear and stress migrant families live with, she said – children afraid that their parents will be gone when they get home from school, ICE cops ready to pounce on the major highways and trailer parks.

Under President Trump, Gihon said, the priority is interior enforcement – anyone in the U.S. illegally is subject to “nab, detain and deport” (Sister Ann’s words). “That’s the way it is now,” she said.

Since January, under this administration, the situation, Gihon said, has been “unstable, confusing, unreliable and inconsistent. Guidance hasn’t been trickling down from Washington so there is a lot of frustration among judges, ICE attorneys and other attorneys.

“It’s a really odd time in immigration.”

During the Obama administration, Gihon said, discretion was allowed, rather than detaining everyone. Hard-core criminals would be detained but not necessarily someone driving without a license. Since January, he said, the amount of bed space has been doubled for detainees.

During the Q&A, a League member asked Gihon what the economic impact would be if the 11.1 million illegals in this country were sent back. “Billions and billions of dollars,” he said.

Hot Topics moderator Renata Sago, a reporter-anchor at 90.7 WMFE, also introduced Rasha Mubarak, regional coordinator for the Center for Islamic-American Relations, asking her to explain the Trust Orlando coalition, founded to offer protection for immigrants and refugees. The group, with 28 nonprofit member organizations, came into being after Trump’s election. “A question for our time,” she said, “is what side of justice do we want to be on? Let’s call [Trump’s proposed ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries] what it is. It is a Muslim ban, and it enables hate and Islamophobia.”

What’s a League to do? Among the panelists’ suggestions: lobby legislators so they will stand with all their constituents, lobby against bills that target immigrants unfairly, help at immigration fairs sponsored by the Hope Community Center,join the LWVOC Immigration Committee. In short, get involved.

Reported by Dean Johnson