Immigrants in the Queen City

Immigration has been a defining issue of 2019. The numerous deaths of children and adults in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers have brought heavy press coverage to the U.S. border with Mexico and immigration from Central and South America as a whole. The Trump administration’s rhetoric regarding both formal and undocumented immigrants has been increasingly divisive and reminiscent of the rhetoric of white supremacists. Last fall’s judicial fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program left many people in a precarious situation, unsure of their status.

Dangerous Rhetoric

Since the occupant of the White House announced his campaign in 2015, his statements and policy positions regarding immigration have been divisive. He has repeatedly called immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border criminals, also claiming that they are bringing drugs across the border and increasing crime rates. Research by Pew Research Center and The Marshall Project actually showed that the crime rate changed little as immigration varied. In fact, the only statistically relevant finding was a slight decrease in property crime when immigration increased. While the Drug Enforcement Agency listed the southern border as the primary source of foreign drugs into the U.S., there is little evidence that undocumented immigrants are a significant factor in bringing drugs across the border.

The administration has also been accused of encouraging violence against undocumented immigrants. These accusations have increased after a Trump supporter opened fire in an El Paso Wal-mart earlier this month with the intention of killing as many Latinx people as possible.

qnotes spoke with one gay Charlotte man qnotes will call Carlos to safeguard his undocumented status. He said that Donald Trump was wrong. “It’s not good that they see it that way,” Carlos said that immigrants who did commit crimes made it worse for the community. “They make it harder for the rest of us. If you work hard in this country, and you do the right thing, you can make money. It’s easy. Some people, they don’t want to do that.” He works for a handyman company, owned by an American family member. He came to the U.S. for work, after struggling to make a living in Mexico.

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He rents a place in Charlotte and spends time working or with his family. He said that while he doesn’t like the national conversation around immigration, he isn’t all that afraid in Charlotte. “In other places, the police work with I.C.E. Here, they don’t do that.” Still, the man is careful about staying within the law. Something as common as a traffic violation can put an immigrant on the radar of immigration authorities.

DACA

The Obama administration issued an executive order in 2012 to provide safety to undocumented migrants who were brought the U.S. as children. The DACA plan allowed applicants to defer action on their immigration cases for two years, allowing them to remain in the U.S. without fear of being deported. The program led to outrage among congressional Republicans and became a major legal fight for the Trump administration. However, for DACA recipients, the program has been helpful. A 2016 report in the Journal of Public Economics noted increased wages and employment status of immigrants eligible for the program.

It has also allowed some immigrants to successfully attend universities without fear of federal law enforcement. While recipients under DACA are considered out-of-state students regardless of where they live and are ineligible for federal aid including grants and some loans, some scholarships exist for undocumented students. However, this can lead to other complications. One bisexual Charlotte immigrant, qnotes will call Angela to safeguard her undocumented status, is currently enrolled in a university and said that she isn’t able to get health insurance unless it is mandated by the school. She said that DACA allows her to get a work permit and social security card, meaning, “We can work but we can’t get sick.”

Angela has lived in the U.S. since she was eight-years-old and speaks English and Spanish both fluently. She works legally at a community center and as a babysitter. Her parents also work at the community center. She filed earlier this summer for the renewal of her DACA status.

While current and previous successful applicants can reapply for protection under DACA, the program is not currently accepting new applicants. This means that the program won’t apply to children who have been recently separated from their families.

Family Separation

Protesters have fought against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and even think it should be abolished due to the treatment of detainees and the Trump administration’s stance on immigrants. (Photo Credit: Carlyle Addy)

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Family separation has been among the most controversial recent immigration policies. While a federal court in June of 2018 ordered I.C.E. to stop separating migrants from their children at the border, the Trump administration was also ordered to reunite families that had already been separated. When the deadline for this order expired, approximately 102 toddlers and infants were still separated from their parents, as well as thousands of children between the ages of five and 17. Hundreds of parents were allegedly deported without their children. Conditions in the detention centers for children have caused concerns among members of Congress.

HIV Status

Recently, during a hearing in the House of Representatives on the policies of family separation at the border, Customs and Border Patrol Chief Brian Hastings told Representative Janie Raskin that they separated children from HIV-positive parents because HIV is considered a communicable disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically stated that HIV is exempted from the definition of a communicable disease of public health significance when applied to immigrants because it cannot be spread through casual contact. Children can contract HIV from their mother in utero, but transmission is unlikely from parent to child after birth. This ruling was made in 2011 after HIV was removed from the list in 2010.

Current diseases listed as communicable are gonorrhea, infectious leprosy, syphilis in the infectious stage and active tuberculosis. When Rep. Raskin asked if families were being separated because a parent had the flu, Hastings stated that this was not the case.

Sanctuary Cities and Charlotte

Charlotte is currently a sanctuary city. While this doesn’t entirely protect immigrants from federal agents, it does allow local law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with immigration officials. This includes detaining people suspected of being undocumented and helping I.C.E. conduct raids.

An immigrant man in Charlotte said that he enjoyed living here in part because of the way the city treats immigrants. He has lived other places, including Atlanta, Ga., and said that Charlotte was the most welcoming city he had lived in while in the U.S. “People here, they don’t care if you are from another country. They don’t care if you have an accent. Most people just care about you doing good work.”

As for deportation, the man said, “I would come back. I hope that I don’t get deported, but if I do, I would not stay in Mexico. I would try to come back.”

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