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Nevada Today

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Immigration Update: U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Census and Moves on DACA Case as Congress Gives Trump Administration Funds for “Humanitarian Aid” (Or Is It Refugee Detention?)

A whole lot has happened this month, and a whole lot of that has to do with President Donald Trump. Just this time last week, he was threatening a new round of mass raids targeting immigrant communities in ten major cities. While he never actually followed through on his threat, he did succeed in extracting nearly $4.6 billion in “humanitarian aid” from Congress that may or may not be spent on its intended purpose.

Meanwhile closer to home, we got “breaking news” of no new news on law enforcement’s controversial relationship with the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant regime.

Why can’t “humanitarian aid” actually provide aid to humans in need?

When Donald Trump called off his threat of the ten-city mass raids last Saturday, he did so with the caveat that he might revive it if Congress doesn’t give him more money for “border security”, presumably so he can raid the federal government’s coffers some more to “Build the Wall!” And even if “The Wall” never really gets built as he promised (as still appears likely), he still wins in amassing more power for himself (which has always been the real goal here).

In response to Trump’s threats, Congress passed a “humanitarian aid” bill that was amended in the Senate so that it has no hard requirement that all $4.59 billion will go to actual humanitarian aid for refugees being held at the border. Nevada’s own Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D) voted for it on that side of the U.S. Capitol yesterday, along with Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) and Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) on their side today, but Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) and Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) voted against it. The final margin was 84-8 in the Senate, and 305-102 in the House.

In response to the House vote, Titus declared in a statement, “The President’s cruel family separation policy has led to a humanitarian crisis and it is a mistake to give this Administration billions of taxpayer dollars with virtually no strings attached.” She and Horsford seemed to voice agreement with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and other progressives who are concerned that a “humanitarian aid” funding package with “border security” funding attached and no enforcement mechanism to guarantee all the “humanitarian aid” makes it to the people who need this aid only further empowers Trump to violate human rights further. And yet, here we are. (Though this morning, Rosen announced she’s placing a hold on two of Trump’s Department of Homeland Security nominees “until  these inhumane conditions improve. Significantly.”)

So nothing really changes?
Photo by Andrew Davey

And that’s not all. Also in “the déjà vu department”, ICE officials declared that Las Vegas Metro Police has opted to extend its participation in ICE’s 287(g) program that deputizes local law enforcement officers to perform federal immigration enforcement acts. Between this and several Nevada law enforcement agencies’ (including Metro) hold agreements where people are turned over to ICE custody with few or no questions asked, they’re aiding and abetting in Trump’s nationwide anti-immigrant regime regardless of what they tell constituents about their alleged disagreement with Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

What makes this news even more disappointing for immigrant rights activists is that Metro officials promised in February that they’d change their protocol on handing arrestees over to ICE agents. Yet instead of following through on this promise, or simply opting out of 287(g) and the generous (to ICE) hold agreements as several other law enforcement agencies across the nation have done, they’re staying the course and keeping everything as is.

In a sense, they’re doing as Congressional leaders are doing: Taking the Trump administration at their word and preferring to “stay the course” rather than “rock the boat”. Never mind that people are already drowning.

Off to court we go (again)
Photo by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Wikimedia

And then, there was a tiny bit of good news for immigrant communities yesterday. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision that rejects the Commerce Department’s request to approve its proposed citizenship question in the 2020 Census while lower courts are still deciding on it. Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan in ruling against the Trump administration, though Roberts issued his opinion in a way that theoretically leaves the door open to its future inclusion in the Census.

But because lower courts are still reviewing new evidence showing that the White House wants the citizenship question to boost Republicans and white governing power, it’s far from certain that the lower courts will issue new rulings in time for the Supreme Court to issue its own new ruling by the Commerce Department’s October 30 deadline to finalize its 2020 Census plan. Keeping this in mind, it’s unlikely the Trump administration will have enough time to secure judicial approval for their citizenship question, though it remains to be seen how much damage has already been done in intimidating communities of color into not participating in the Census. (This is a major reason why Governor Steve Sisolak [D] signed an executive order in April to launch a Nevada Complete Count program to counter any intimidation efforts.)

Photo by Andrew Davey

Then this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will finally take up three DACA cases this fall, meaning we’ll likely see a DACA ruling next June. If the Court rules in favor of the Trump administration, they can finally end the deportation relief program for select DREAMers that then President Obama established in 2012. But if the Court rules against Trump’s attempt to end DACA, pay close attention to how they do so, as their opinions on executive authority may affect the plans of Democratic presidential candidates (such as Senator Kamala Harris [D-California]) who are promising immediate executive action to provide legal protection to DREAMers and other immigrants in need should they defeat Trump next year.

Meanwhile, additional lawsuits continue to percolate in the lower courts on Trump’s “emergency declaration” to divert federal funds for “The Wall” and his attempt to roll back TPS protection for select refugees. Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) has joined multi-state coalitions arguing against Trump in both suits.

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