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Trump to build wall, get tough on immigration: U-M experts can comment


President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday instructing federal agencies to work regarding the construction of the wall with Mexico, defund sanctuary cities and enforce immigration law. University of Michigan experts can discuss.

Jason De Leon, assistant professor of anthropology, has spent years studying the lives of illegal migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, and more recently the southern Mexican-Guatemalan border. He is the author of "The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail."

"The recent executive order on immigration and border enforcement reflects both a failure of the current administration to understand the realities of how we police our southern political boundary and giant leap away from any type of reasonable approach to immigration reform," he said. "Years of research and investigative journalism have demonstrated that many of these proposals are either impossible, dangerous, and/or destined to fail. An increase in immigration detention centers has been shown to be a new way to pad the pockets of private contractors who are moving away from the unpopular prison-industrial complex towards the immigration-detention industry.

"This increase in private detention centers is also directly linked to numerous human rights violations, which would only get worse should we increase construction rates of these facilities. Expanding the border patrol seems odd given that this administration has recently called for a federal hiring freeze. Moreover, given the rigorous vetting required to join the border patrol, it is unlikely that any type of hiring surge would be possible at this point.

"Finally, the construction of a wall would be prohibitively expensive, a logistical nightmare to maintain, a disaster for the natural environment, and a project subject to numerous legal appeals by environmental groups, Native Americans who live along the border, and various other agencies and groups. More importantly, decades of research have clearly shown that a wall along the border would function as nothing other than an overpriced monument to xenophobia and a failure to understand how border security works."

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Ann Lin, associate professor at the Ford School of Public Policy, has studied the most recent federal efforts to reform immigration policies. She can discuss how Trump's executive order not only opens the doors to deport any undocumented alien, but also affects all immigrants.

"What President Trump's executive order tells Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents to do is to stop prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigration who have been found guilty of a crime," she said. "Instead, deport everyone who was arrested on Tuesday, as long as they aren't U.S. citizens."

On detention centers:
"Building new detention centers isn't going to make America safer. But it will make companies that build and operate detention centers richer."

On the wall:
"President Trump doesn't seem to understand that the federal government doesn't own the border. American citizens own farms and ranches on the border: Will Trump evict them from their own land? An Indian reservation extends across the border: Will the federal government split it in half with a wall? And after a wall is built: Will these Americans next have to deal with tunnels under the wall?"

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Sherrie Kossoudji is an associate professor of social work and adjunct associate professor of economics. She has written numerous articles on the legal status of immigrant workers in the U.S. and the incentives to cross the border illegally. Kossoudji has also written on wealth disparities for immigrants. This summer she brought a group of students to the border with Mexico. Check out their blog:

"We already have a wall that covers part of the southern border and that cost millions of dollars per mile. The cost to wall up the rest of the southern border will be much higher per mile. Who will pay the billions of dollars? Right now, either taxpayers will pay or the administration will use the government's credit card, increasing U.S. debt. To what end? Does a southern wall help fight terrorism or drug cartels? Not much. Thousands of miles of border on the east, the north, and the west, will still be available. Terrorism and drug gangs are problems that should be addressed directly—not by closing us in."

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Nicole Novak of the Institute for Social Research and Aresha Martinez-Cardoso of the School of Public Health co-authored a study published last week that shows that the stress from an historic immigration raid is associated with Latina mothers delivering babies with lower birth weights, and sometimes early.

"These new executive orders reinforce and expand a body of anti-immigrant policies that have already been linked to poor health and well-being, not only for undocumented immigrants but also for their documented and U.S.-born family and community members. The executive orders expand existing enforcement policies that have been linked to reduced access to federal nutrition programs and health insurance for U.S. citizen children born to immigrant parents. Furthermore, these policies create conditions for fear, stress and uncertainty that damage social relationships and imbue daily activities with anxiety, further compromising the well-being of undocumented immigrants and the communities they are embedded in."

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Margo Schlanger, professor of law, is a leading authority on civil rights issues and served as the officer for civil rights and civil liberties in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She can discuss sanctuary cities and immigration law.

"The president's orders on border and interior enforcement betray our nation's best traditions by emphasizing massive and unnecessary detention of would-be immigrants seeking legal status," she said. "Under the orders, asylum seekers who have credible claims for relief will nonetheless often face long periods of detention, even when they pose no risk of flight or public danger. This is both a waste of money and a human rights disaster."

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William Lopez, a postdoctoral scholar at the School of Social Work, co-authored the community health survey of Latinos in Washtenaw County, Mich., which showed the impact of an immigration raid in the community. He can comment on this, and on Trump's threat to defund so-called sanctuary cities.

"This is important for at least two reasons," he said. "First, sanctuary city policies certainly support immigrant communities, but they are also often supported by law enforcement. Police know that they cannot 'serve and protect' if no one trusts them to report crimes, and there is no way immigrant communities will call the police if it will result in deportation of members of their community.

"But secondly, it is not clear what federal funding President Trump intends to cut if cities refuse to comply. If we are not careful, Trump will succeed in splitting marginalized communities, many of whom utilize government services to stay healthy. Advocates of all stripes—whether for immigrant, LGBT or refugee communities, reproductive health care activists or environmentalists—should avoid infighting for the remaining funds and instead collaborate to challenge the structure that marginalized them to begin with."

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Daniel Kruger, a researcher with the Institute for Social Research, led the community health survey of Latinos in Washtenaw County.

"Fear of deportation and immigration enforcement, whether for oneself or one's loved ones, has an adverse impact on community health and the utilization of health services," he said. "Greater fears of deportation would likely lead to further social isolation and avoidance of the health infrastructure."

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