Things That Matter

Trump Moves To End Automatic Citizenship For Some Military Families Based Overseas, Here’s Why This Matters

There is no denying that the thorniest issues in Donald J. Trump’s presidency has been migration and citizenship. Whether it involves the Dream Act, detention centers in the border or issues of citizenship, the Trump administration seems to act like a severe judge who decides who “deserves” to be an American or call the United States home. 

The president has recently been vocal about the possibility of ending birthright citizenship, meaning that a baby will need more than just being born in the United States to be an American if their parents don’t have their paper in order. So when a recent change in citizenship policies came into effect, people saw it as a sign of worse things to come. From now on, citizenship is not guaranteed to the offspring of military personnel who are stationed overseas. Critics worry that this could be a slippery slope leading to the much feared end to birthright citizenship, a move that would redefine the social and ethical construct of the United States. 

Let’s get some background info first. The US Army has a long tradition of overseas deployments.

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The United States Army has participated in two world wars and been involved in other international conflicts. It also has a strong presence in the five continents. Many of the servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas have families with them, or form families with partners from the host country (perhaps what makes Trump officials queasy). 

You could populate a small city with the amount of US military personnel living overseas in 177 countries.

Credit: us-personnel-chart-military (1). Digital image. Visualcapitalist.com

The United States has a strong military presence in the world, particularly in Europe and Asia. Japan and South Korea in particular host over 50,000 United States troops. This means that there are cultural and personal exchanges happening every single day, which is common in this day and age of globalization. 

So what does the policy change actually mean? The number of affected individuals is low, but the consequences could be dire. 

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The policy change only affects a handful of individuals, but could set a precedent for harsher and more defining moves. The New York Times explains the mechanics of the policy: “[it] would make some parents serving abroad who adopted children or who had spent limited time in the United States apply for citizenship for children not born on American soil. Immigration lawyers and military groups predicted that for those families, citizenship would have to come through an onerous, expensive application process — if it comes at all”. According to experts, the policy could affect 100 families. Each year there are about 25 applications. 

Democrats blasted the move, claiming that it is a disservice to the military.

Credit: Twitter. @RepGilCisneros

Gil Cisneros, Representative of California’s 39th Congressional District serves on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), so his opinion has a fair amount of weight in Washington. He is totally opposed to the new policy and has been very combative on social media. He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Will this backfire on the Trump administration come election time?

Veteran policymakers are also appalled.

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African-American Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district since 1998, has gone even farther and claimed that the decision is triggered by a racist worldview. Nancy Pelosi also expressed her discontent, tweeting: “America’s servicemembers & diplomats abroad are among our nation’s best, yet @realDonaldTrump is launching an attack on their families, putting in doubt the citizenship of their children born overseas. This shameful policy must be reversed immediately”. The drums of political war are beating. 

The hashtag #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies became a trending topic.

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The move is rather symbolic and exacerbates tensions that already existed between the military and the Trump administration. Jeremy Buttler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The New York Times: “By targeting the citizenship of children, the administration has made service abroad — an already intense, stressful environment — even more difficult for military families to navigate. It’s unclear what issue this policy is trying to solve, and why it’s going into effect imminently without a plan for education, outreach and support for those it affects”.

So close to election time, #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies punctures one of the GOP’s most favorable demographics.

Credit: Twitter. @thosemuckrakers

It is no secret that the GOP is generally favored by members of the military when it comes to elections. Veterans in particular tend to vote Republican. In 2016, Donald Trump received 61% of  the veteran vote. Could moves like this change that tendency?

Others have called out the presidency for a pattern of singling out particular communities.

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Some Twitter users are connecting this policy change to other shifts in immigration policies, particularly the so-called “Muslim ban”. This veteran will simply not have it. Officials have played down the criticism, arguing that the change just requires different paperwork and that it does not affect birthright citizenship.

But opposing voices are adding up. Trend News Agency reports Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, which advocates for gay and lesbian service members, as saying: “Military members already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are U.S. citizens”. 

Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

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Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

While the US Supreme Court’s conservative-majority justices are seemingly ready to allow Trump to rescind Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Justice Sonia Sotomayor clearly stated her opinion that the court’s decision, “is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.” The 2012 policy shields immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children without documentation, from deportation and allows them to work for up to two years at a time. Research shows that DACA has reduced the number of undocumented immigrants living in poverty, and has improved mental health status for DACA participants and their children. The Trump administration rescinded DACA protections for nearly 700,000 recipients in 2017. 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to end DACA and is expected to deliver a decision by Spring 2020.

Two memos lie at the heart of the decision.

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The first memo was begrudgingly given by then Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke. Duke’s volunteer history included offering legal aid to immigrants. During a White House meeting with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, she was pressured to issue a memo that would end DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Duke that DACA was illegal, on the grounds of it exceeding presidential power. Duke issued a bare-bones memo that offered no policy reason for the end of DACA, except that it was unlawful. She later resigned.

Her replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen, retroactively justified the decision with a second memo, which included a new reason to end DACA: to project a message of consistency of enforcement of all immigration laws.

Now, US solicitor general Noel Francisco is arguing that Obama’s decision to introduce DACA exceeded presidential power.

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

“Basic administrative law is you look at what’s first given to you,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told Francisco, not “what you add later.” Still, she said that even if “you ignore that and even look at the Nielsen memo, I think my colleagues have rightly pointed there’s a whole lot of reliance interests that weren’t looked at.” What’s crucial to this decision, according to Sotomayor, is that President Trump had told “DACA-eligible people that they were safe under him and that he would find a way to keep them here. And so he hasn’t and, instead, he’s done this.” 

In 2017, Trump tweeted, in reference to DACA recipients, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”

Trump tweeted Tuesday that DACA recipients are “far from angels.”

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,'” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

A major requirement for DACA recipients is that they have no criminal record. “Trump is fear-mongering and falsely accusing people of color,” Dr. Eugene Gu tweeted. “Many DACA recipients are doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists, teachers, and integral members of society. Many have never set foot in their original countries for their whole lives and speak mainly English. Threatening to deport them through racist fear-mongering is evil.”

The events leading up to the memo led Sotomayor to believe “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

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Trump’s promise to protect DACA recipients during his campaign and his about-face is “something to be considered before you rescind a policy. Not just say I’ll give you six months to do it – to destroy your lives.” At the end of the day, Sotomayor is pointing out that Francisco’s argument is not evident in the memos. “Where is all of this in the memo? Where is all of this really considered and weighed? And where is the political decision made clearly,” she asked. Sotomayor concluded, “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

Sotomayor also argued that DACA simply allows law enforcement agencies to prioritize its use of its limited resources.

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“I have always had some difficulty in understanding the illegality of DACA,” Sotomayor offered her opinion. “We all know [ICE] has limited resources. It can’t, even when it wants to remove the vast majority of aliens we have here. And so I’ve always had some difficulty in understanding what’s wrong with an agency saying, we’re going to prioritize our removals, and for those people, like the DACA people who haven’t committed crimes, who are lawfully employed, who are paying taxes, who pose no threat to our security, and there’s a whole list of prerequisites, we’re not going to exercise our limited resources to try to get rid of those people. I — I still have an impossible time.”

Oh, and Sotomayor was interrupted numerous times by Francisco and her male peers.

Credit: US Supreme Court

A 2017 Northwestern Pritzker School of Law study found that male justices interrupt female justices three times as often as each other during oral arguments. The study also found that conservative justices were twice as likely to interrupt liberal justices than liberal justices were to interrupt their conservative peers. According to Supreme Court transcripts, Justice Sotomayor was interrupted by Justice Neil Gorsuch. The two both awkwardly apologized to each other when Sotomayor graciously told Gorsuch, “No, no, continue.”

When Justice Sotomayor was in the middle of her arguments, General Francisco interrupted her, saying, “So I guess I have three responses, Your Honor.” Sotomayor bluntly said, “All right. But let me just finish my question.” Francisco casually said, “Oh, sure,” to which Sotomayor incredulously asked, “Okay?” “Yeah,” Francisco responded to the Justice.

A decision is expected to be made public by Spring 2020.

READ: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Breaks New Two-Minute Rule By Interrupting Lawyer During Immigration Case

Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

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Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

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The United States Supreme Court heard over an hour and a half of arguments Tuesday on whether or not the Trump administration can end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The case has been brewing since the Trump administration first announced plans to end the Obama-era program in 2017. As of early reporting, it seems the justices are pretty closely split with the conservative members of the court seemingly leaning towards ending the program.

The Supreme Court heard more than an hour and a half of oral arguments in favor and against the preservation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program gave deportation relief, driver’s licenses, work permits, and access to student loans for hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S. Despite Trump consistently telling the media that the issue of DACA will be handled with heart, the president’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the end of the program in 2017.

According to The New York Times, Trump moved to end the program because of “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Sessions stated that the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Plaintiffs and attorneys for DACA left the Supreme Court today and chanted with thousands of protesters demanding the preservation of the program.

“Home is here! Home is here,” the crowd can be heard chanting as the plaintiffs all left the Supreme Court. The arguments helped determine where certain justices fall on the issue of preserving DACA and protecting hundreds of thousands of young people from being deported from the only home they know.

NBC News reports that the nine justices are closely divided on the issue with all of the conservative justices seemingly leaning against it. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh asking questions that seemed to confirm their alignment with the Trump administration’s decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer appear to be in favor of preserving the program. The deciding vote might come from Justice John Roberts, who in the court’s last term ruled against the Trump administration’s wish to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

A majority of Americans support the DACA program and the recipients who benefit from it.

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Selena Gomez recently debuted a new docu-series highlighting the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. The show has given new perspective to the immigration debate that has been raging in the U.S. for decades.

More than 60 percent of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center also favor a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. That poll found that 48 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as more than 600,000 DACA recipients wait to know their fate.

With such overwhelming support, it would seem that passing legislation to protect DACA recipients would be easy. However, Democratic Representation Lucille Roybal-Allard of California introduced a bill in March of this year called The American Dream and Promise Act. The bill would enshrine the protections offered by DACA into law. The bill passed the House of Representatives on June 4 and is awaiting a vote from the Senate. However, the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, has refused to take a vast array of bills up for a vote in an increasingly partisan pushback.

DACA and the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. are being evaluated at the highest court of the land today.

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Americans overwhelmingly support the program. The president has used this vulnerable community as a political pawn. At one point, the president was willing to offer DACA protections in exchange for border wall funding.

The nation is watching the Supreme Court closely as they are waiting to hear the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S.

Students in Los Angeles joined in with major walkouts to demonstrate in favor of DACA and their peers benefitting from the program. We are all waiting to hear how the Supreme Court rules on this issue.

Check back with mitú as this story develops.

READ: Luis Cortes Is The 31-Year-Old Dreamer Attorney Fighting To Save DACA In The Supreme Court Case