BY ALFONSO CHARDY MAR 05, 2017
Before the sun peeked above the horizon, dozens of day laborers gathered in the parking lot of a Little Havana Home Depot one morning last week waiting to be picked up to build our homes, mow our lawns or pick the fruits and vegetables we eat.
Similar scenes played out at many parking lots and street corners throughout South Florida, from Homestead to West Palm Beach, despite the spreading climate of fear in immigrant communities stemming from tough measures enacted by President Donald Trump since taking office Jan. 20 — all of which make it easier for immigration agents to detain foreign nationals who have broken immigration laws.
In Homestead, workers in the parking lot of a supermarket near the corner of Mowry Drive and Krome Avenue said neither police nor immigration agents have bothered them. “Our concern is whether we can get a job for the day,” said Gabriel Alavés of Oaxaca, Mexico.
An analysis by el Nuevo Herald of Trump’s new executive orders and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines, based on interviews with U.S. and local officials, immigration attorneys and immigrant rights advocates, shows that federal immigration agents have recovered the power they partly lost under former President Barack Obama, whose own executive orders shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.
Under Obama, for example, Central American children who crossed the Mexican border without their parents were deemed unaccompanied minors even after they were reunited with family members in South Florida and elsewhere in the country. Now, immigration officials have been instructed to verify if such designation should continue when the child’s case reaches immigration court for possible deportation and to deport or prosecute their parents and other relatives if they paid migrant smugglers to bring the minors across the border.
“DHS shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against those who — directly or indirectly — facilitate the smuggling or trafficking of alien children into the United States,” new DHS guidelines say. “This includes placing parents or guardians who are removable aliens into removal proceedings, or referring such individuals for criminal prosecution, as appropriate.”
Immigration advocates expressed alarm.
“The DHS border enforcement memo has a devastating impact on unaccompanied children under our immigration policies,” said Michelle Ortíz, deputy director of Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice. “It calls for the re-evaluation of unaccompanied minor status, which would effectively strip humanitarian and due process protections for many Central American children seeking refuge and safety at our border.”