Last month, immigrants, worried that the inauguration of Donald Trump would be followed by large-scale ICE raids, began calling local legal service organizations. The question was how should they set up care for their U.S.-born children if the parents were arrested at work. “How do I set up a bank account so my kids can get the money if I am deported?” one immigrant asked in December.
Immigrant parents are drilling their children in what to do if they are arrested. The children are being told which neighbor or friend will become their guardian or if the child will accompany the parent back to the home country.
For the last two months, young people with work authorizations have been streaming into various organizations to get counseling on alternative immigration relief they might be eligible for if Donald Trump makes good on his promise to end the DACA program on his first day in office. Some come in crying, others just look like they are in shock. The optimism they felt about their futures has been transformed into a dread of the shipwreck of their dreams.
These DACA recipients are not the only immigrants with legal status worried about changes in policy. Rumors are circulating that Donald Trump may not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans and Hondurans at the end of the year. While the incoming president has not said anything about this program yet, there are approximately 10,000 Long Islanders who depend on TPS for their continued legal status in the United States. Everyone from those two countries with TPS has been here for more than fifteen years. Many have lived here for decades, own their own homes, and have long-term jobs. If they lose their work permits a year from now, then employers will lose trusted workers, houses will be foreclosed on, and American-born children will face the loss of their parents.
Even now, before anything has happened at Homeland Security, businesses in immigrant neighborhoods report drops in sales. One business owner told me that people who are afraid of losing their status and their jobs are not spending money in anticipation of DACA and TPS ending.
There is also increased mistrust of the police in immigrant communities. The announcement after Trump’s election by the Suffolk County Sheriff that immigrants will be kept in jail if requested by ICE has raised fears that police will be cooperating with ICE more broadly. Suffolk County has had a particularly checkered history of cooperating with ICE on deportations. Efforts over the last six years to increase trust between the cops and the community are being challenged by the actions of the sheriff.
Both counties may be strong-armed into a more antagonistic relationship with immigrants if the new president’s threat to take away some federal aid from counties that protect immigrant rights is realized.
Whatever happens, Long Island Wins will be here to provide you with the latest information on the first days of the Trump administration.