Wendy S. Wayne
America has long defined itself as a nation of immigrants, reflecting not only our diversity, but a shared belief in liberty, justice, opportunity, and in providing refuge to those fleeing persecution. That identity has been challenged by the current administration’s efforts to radically reshape our nation’s immigration laws and policies. The President, during his first week in office, issued three Executive Orders that drastically altered immigration policies and promoted restrictive enforcement activities. These orders called for a temporary ban on refugees and certain (mostly Muslim) visitors to our nation, the construction of a continuous wall along the southwest border, a massive expansion of civil detention and immigration enforcement, and ending protections for certain asylum-seekers. In the past year, the President terminated the DACA program that provided temporary status and a lifeline to almost 800,000 young people brought to the United States as children. The administration also ended Temporary Protected Status for almost 300,000 Central Americans, Haitians and others who have been in the United States for decades and who form an essential part of the American economy. Most recently, the Attorney General announced in April 2018 a “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the criminal prosecution of immigrants and asylum-seekers for entry-related offenses at the southwest border. In furtherance of this policy, the Department of Homeland Security began intentionally separating children from their parents at the border to deter and punish unlawful border crossers. This policy resulted in widespread public outrage and bipartisan condemnation. Overwhelming criticism and successful legal challenges resulted in a presidential Executive Order to rescind the family separation policy while reinstituting the discredited policy of family detention. These restrictive policies raise serious issues of due process and threaten our country’s role as an economic and moral leader. The United States, historically a beacon of hope for individuals throughout the world, is no longer seen as welcoming to immigrants and refugees. The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty today ring hollow. Restrictive immigration policies put lives at risk -- not only the lives of noncitizens, but also the lives of their spouses, children and parents who are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. During this difficult time, the ABA Commission on Immigration will continue its fundamental mission of advocating for fairness and full due process rights for immigrants and asylum-seekers in the United States. We promote due process and the rule of law. We recognize the vital role of lawyers in defending noncitizens who have bona fide claims to live in the United States. We defend our courts as critical forums for justice, especially for vulnerable men, women and children who seek America’s protections. Please stand with us in ensuring that our country remains a haven for those who face persecution and a land of opportunity for immigrants who bring vital skills and a strong work ethic to our economy. Our strength lies in our diversity and in upholding the values of our Constitution.