Wednesday, June 3, 2020

E.L., state weigh immigration ban implications

February 9, 2017
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows speaks during a city council meeting on Sept. 13, 2016 at East Lansing City Hall. The city council meets to take action on legislative matters on several Tuesdays of each month.
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows speaks during a city council meeting on Sept. 13, 2016 at East Lansing City Hall. The city council meets to take action on legislative matters on several Tuesdays of each month. —
Photo by Derek VanHorn | and Derek VanHorn The State News

On Tuesday evening, the three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of San Francisco listened to objections to the order by the states of Minnesota and Washington as federal government attorneys attempted to reverse the suspension placed on the order last Friday by Seattle’s U.S. judge James Robart.

The ban was active from the moment of its signing only a week after Trump took office on Jan. 27, and calls for an emergency freeze on refugee entrance to the U.S. for 120 days and barred arrivals from seven countries for 90 days. The countries listed are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The chaos resulted in numerous legal challenges with concerns for all people from these countries, including international students at universities like MSU.

Currently more than 5,000 refugees have found refuge in Michigan, almost 1,700 of which are from Syria. Comparatively, 133 MSU students hail from the seven banned countries.

During the ban’s enforcement, Gov. Rick Snyder expressed a need to reach out to other governors and President Trump’s administration for clarification and dialogue. The Governor said he supports “safe and secure borders” while citing Michigan as “one of the most welcoming states for legal immigration and properly vetted refugees.”

Meanwhile, Snyder’s Commission on Middle Eastern-American Affairs, or CMEAA, voiced concern that the order was “tearing families apart and further displacing thousands of vulnerable refugees in desperate need of a place of refugee.”

Mayor of East Lansing Mark Meadows said he believes this executive order would impact the city, citing the concerns that world-university communities like MSU now have, where 12 percent of the student population is foreign-born and needs to travel at some point between their home nation and the campus.

Meadows said he believes such a ban would negatively affect the local economy, although he admitted exactly how is hard to predict. A possible scenario Meadows conceived is if a student from a banned country becomes trapped in their home nation and defaults on their rental agreement with a landlord.

“Just the uncertainty will impact MSU, in a sense that students who maybe thought they would be coming here are reluctant to do so, and that may impact every university community in the nation,” Meadows said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said Michigan’s refugees are a vital component of the state and East Lansing.

“It’s important to the small businesses in our area and it’s important to our economy as a whole. So I think beyond the huge personal tragedies that are occurring, it also effects even greater the East Lansing area,” Hertel said.

Limits placed on refugees coming to this area, Hertel said, stops these people from investing in the community.

“I think that’s a bad thing for the greater Lansing area, I think it’s a bad thing for East Lansing. It’s both actually on a personal level and a also on an economic level,” he said.

Former East Lansing mayor and Michigan’s 69th District House Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said he’s disappointed in the executive order, calling it ill-thought-through.

“It’s very clear from hearing from national security experts and people that have studied foreign policy that this type of strategy is not making our country any safer, and in many instances coulee be making our country less safe for our residents,” Singh said. “I was disappointed to see it implemented as quickly as it was without the appropriate vetting that normally goes into executive orders of the president.”

Meadows called the executive order unconstitutional, believing it was constructed to provide a priority for one religion over another, impacting the Islamic religion over all others, therefore violating the First, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s order addressing sanctuary cities states that sanctuary jurisdictions violate federal law in order to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported and are at risk of losing federal funding.

Meadows said East Lansing recently again addressed the companion order 8 U.S.C. 1373, a federal statute that orders states and local communities to perform the work of the federal government that would normally performed by the U.S Citizenship Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other federal agencies like the FBI.

The statute states that unless a local community complies with its requirements, the community will be declared a sanctuary jurisdiction.

“We have not complied with that statute since at least 2001, and consequently the president declared us a sanctuary city,” Meadows said.

This statute, Meadows said, is also unconstitutional, as the 14th Amendment brings into play at the state level all restrictions contained in the Bill of Rights, including the 10th Amendment, preserving all authority to the states that is specifically given to the federal authorities.

President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, where in Section 2 (c) it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure such jurisdictions do not receive federal funds “except as mandated by law."

Yet Meadows said President Trump doesn’t have the authority to cut any funding, as the standards upon which funding is authorized is contained in the federal budget, which only is implemented by the Executive Branch and governed by thousands of rules and regulations.

Meadows said East Lansing receives about $650,000 in community block-grant funding from the federal government every year. The taxes citizens pay to the federal government are returned in order to provide social services and infrastructure improvements in ares where a high proportion of the residents income places them sat or below the poverty level.

“We’ve received and used that money for many years in compliance with all federal regulations which to apply to it,” Meadows said.

These funds, Meadows said, have nothing to do with the U.S. Citizenship Immigration and Naturalization Services.

“Even assuming president Trump had the authority to establish this penalty—which he does not—then it would be unlawful for the federal government to restrict our ability to receive this money for the reasons that he stated in his executive order anyway,” Meadows said.

Michigan Sen. Rick Jones (R-East Lansing) said since most countries are not banned, he sees very little effect on Michigan.

“What people need to understand is that the number one priority (of this order) is to make sure that terrorism does not come to Michigan and kill the children and people of Michigan," Jones said.

Jones said he has no problem with banning immigration from countries “where we can’t do proper vetting,” referring to the countries listed in the executive order.

Jones stressed that the order was informed by a list of countries the President Barack Obama administration labeled likely to export terrorists, referring to the measure Obama signed into law in December 2015 that placed limited travel restrictions on people who visited “countries of concern” Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after March 1, 2011, later adding Libya, Somalia and Yemen with the purpose of reducing the threat of foreign terror.

These measures restricted visa-waiver travel, prohibiting travelers without a visa entering the U.S. and overriding the previous law requiring such travelers to apply for a visa.

“This has precedence, all President Trump is trying to do is keep us safe, and I don’t have a problem with keeping Michigan children and citizens safe,” Jones said.

These claims of similarity between actions of past presidents is echoed amongst supporters of Trumps executive order, yet they’re widely being discredited.

“The fact that Obama indicated that we have to protect the shores of the nation, nobody has disagreed with that, that’s not the purpose of the protest against this order,” Meadows said. “This is an order which is significantly different than all of the other orders have have ever been issued.”

Rep. Singh said the travel restrictions are absolutely not the same, contrasting president Trump’s strategies with president Obama’s, who acted on recommendations of intelligence communities.

“It wasn’t a ban, people were still coming through on a case-by-case basis,” Singh said.

During a time of increasing security concern, intelligence communities recommended that certain people coming from Iraq to undergo new vetting processes based on actual evidence brought forward by intelligence agencies, Singh said, and any comparisons to Obama or Jimmy Carter era policy is just rhetoric at this point.

Meadows spoke to the many people who have already been vetted, as well people who already became residents of the U.S. attempting to return home here.

Meadows said he believes Trump’s order carries a religious-based distinction, citing the president’s calls of preference for religious-minority Christian refugees coming from these seven Muslim-majority countries.

"What he’s basically saying there is establishing a religious test to obtain refugee and immigrants status,” Meadows said. “That is why his order is unlawful. Other presidents have restricted travel, and for periods of time they usually had a different reason than Trump did, and this is also impacted because of the poor way in which it was worded.”

Singh is looking to national security experts who say a ban such as this will actually make America less safe, which he said is actually now the rhetoric within terrorists organizations.

These people have contributed a huge amount to our society, Hertel said about doctors and scientists and entrepreneurs who have come to this country once as refugees.

“We have (more than 5,000) refugees here in Michigan and I think that we’ve all benefited from that," Hertel said. "And I’ve yet to see any ill effect in Michigan from having them here, so I think it’s unfortunate what the President’s doing, and I hope that congress will step up and fight back.”

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