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Donald Trump’s ICE Is Tearing Families Apart

Taseen Jamal, a fourteen-year-old from Lawrence, Kansas, was getting
ready for school two weeks ago when his younger sister, Naheen, ran into
the kitchen, screaming. A black truck with tinted windows was parked in
their driveway, and two men, who identified themselves as officers with
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), were putting their father,
Syed, in handcuffs. Originally from Bangladesh, Syed moved to the United
States in 1987. He is fifty-five years old, teaches chemistry at a local
college, and has three children, all American citizens. “I’d heard about
this stuff happening on the news,” Taseen told me. “I just didn’t think
it could happen to us.” His father has been in detention since his

Syed Jamal first came to the U.S. on a student visa, to study at the
University of Kansas. After graduating, he stayed in the country to work
at Children’s Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, which sponsored his H-1B
visa. Over the next several years, he readjusted his status so that he
could pursue graduate work; when his last visa expired, in 2008, he was
unable to find another job in time to renew his papers. Since 2012, he’s
had regular check-ins with ICE, yet he has been allowed to remain in the
country because the Obama Administration, after arresting hundreds of
thousands of people in its first few years, decided to stop focussing
resources on deporting people without criminal records. Under the Trump
Administration, which has called for a massive increase in deportations,
people like Jamal are getting rearrested and processed for deportation.
ICE made a hundred and forty thousand arrests last year, an increase of
thirty per
compared with the year before, and the number of so-called non-criminal
arrests has doubled. Immigrants who have lived productive lives in the
U.S. for decades are being rounded up. “There’s no rhyme or reason
behind it,” Felicia Escobar, who was an immigration adviser to President
Barack Obama, told me.

“When you remove all priorities, it’s like a fisherman who could just
get his quota anywhere,” John Sandweg, a former acting head of ICE, told the Washington Post. The stories of recent ICE arrests do not fit any
particular pattern. Late last month, a Detroit landscaper named Jorge
García, who came to the U.S. with his parents, in 1989, when he was ten,
was deported to Mexico. His wife and two children, who are American
citizens, stayed behind, in Detroit. This month, a forty-three-year-old
Michigan doctor named Lukasz Niec, who came to the United States from
Poland in 1979, was arrested and is currently in deportation
proceedings. Last week, a thirty-year-old father of five, Jesus
Berrones, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was a year
old, was ordered to be deported, despite the fact that his five-year-old
son is undergoing chemotherapy to treat leukemia. ICE is sending out
thousands of notice-to-appear requests, documents that are typically
preludes to arrest and deportation. Matt Adams, a lawyer with the
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, in Seattle, told me, “ICE is taking
anybody and everybody they can. It’s low-hanging fruit, whoever they can
get. These are people who’ve been here for twenty or thirty years.”

Nationwide, ICE has twenty thousand employees and more than four hundred
field offices. Every year, the branch of the agency tasked with making
immigration arrests, called Enforcement and Removal Operations, detains
at least a hundred thousand people—more arrests per year than the
F.B.I., the U.S. Marshals, and the Secret Service make combined. Yet the
guidelines for whom ICE should target have never been clear;
historically, officers have had wide latitude to exercise discretion in
individual cases, but the agency’s work has always been influenced by
the preferences of the White House. Every Presidential Administration
for the last half century has set its own tone on immigration
enforcement. Last year, amid reports of newly unfettered ICE activity,
John Kelly, who served as the Secretary of Homeland Security before
becoming Donald Trump’s chief of staff, vocally defended ICE officers.
“If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to
enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the
laws,” he
“Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the
front lines. My people have been discouraged from doing their jobs for
nearly a decade.”

Jamal’s arrest illustrates how radically ICE’s approach has shifted. In
2010, after Jamal exhausted his appeals to renew his visa, he received a
notice to appear before ICE. A few months later, an immigration judge
ordered him to leave the country by October 26, 2011. But in the summer of 2011 a
lawyer with the Department of Homeland Security contacted Jamal and
informed him that ICE had decided to leave him alone. In March of that
year, John Morton, then the head of ICE, had issued a new set of
guidelines for officers, telling them to target only people who
were a threat to “national security, public safety, and border
security.” Jamal held two graduate degrees from
American universities (in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical
engineering), he had worked at a hospital, and he was a father of three.
According to the lawyer from D.H.S., this made him a “low priority.”

Four of Jamal’s siblings, who, like him, came to the U.S. legally, to
study at American schools, have U.S. citizenship. Jamal suffered bad
luck. “People don’t realize how hard it is to adjust your status,” his
brother, also named Syed, who lives in Arizona, told me. “He tried for
years. He tried to do it the right way. I live with the guilt of knowing
that I could have gotten my passport sooner, become a citizen faster. I
could have tried to sponsor him.”

Under the guidelines set forth by Morton, Jamal became one of thousands
of undocumented immigrants whom the federal government allowed to resume
a semi-normal life. Every year, Jamal paid a four-hundred-dollar fee in
exchange for protection from deportation and a work permit. By 2012,
he’d begun teaching as an adjunct at Park University, near Kansas City,
and conducting research at hospitals in the area. The Obama
Administration, meanwhile, continued to hone its approach to immigration
enforcement. In 2014, Jeh Johnson, then the Secretary of Homeland
Security, created a more detailed set of priorities for ICE. One of the
guidelines directed the agency to prioritize newly arrived immigrants—a
measure designed to spare those, like Jamal, who’d lived in the country
for decades.

A month after assuming office, Trump cancelled all of the enforcement
priorities instituted by the Obama Administration, and he encouraged ICE officers to arrest as many people as they could. As a result, any
immigrant who is undocumented is now at risk of being arrested and
deported. “It feels like we’re on a totally different level than in
previous Administrations, both Democrat and Republican,” Escobar, the former Obama aide, told me. “From the rhetoric that’s out there, from the
policies—they have the staff at ICE to do what they want. The will is
there. The resources are there. It’s unprecedented.”

When I spoke to Jamal’s son, Taseen, by phone last week, his mother and
one of his younger sisters were on the line with us, but he did most of
the talking. The family has launched a fund-raising campaign online to
finance Syed’s defense. Taseen, who wants to become a lawyer, wrote the
text and contacted neighbors and community members to enlist their
support. He and his family have stressed that Syed, who is a member of
an ethnic minority in Bangladesh, will be in danger if he’s deported.

“I went to school the day my father was arrested,” Taseen told me. “I
felt like I was dreaming. It was good to be at school, because I could
try to distract myself. But it’s been rough. It’s hard to concentrate in
class. I keep thinking about what can happen. What’s painful is not
knowing what’s really going on.” He has spoken to his father by phone a
few times since he has been in detention. “All my life, I’ve seen my dad
as a strong man,” Taseen said. “When he called us, it sounded like he
was tearing up. To know that he could be weak, that he was crying, it
hurt the most to feel like I couldn’t help him.”

Late last week, a court issued a temporary stay to halt Jamal’s
deportation. Increasingly, federal judges across the country seem to be
registering their unease with the Trump Administration’s enforcement
push by giving immigrants in custody more time to seek temporary relief
in court. But these judges cannot rule on the merits of individual
immigration cases. “I am increasingly troubled by orders from federal
judges halting the deportation of certain groups of individuals, all of
which appear to ignore the fact that each alien in question was lawfully
ordered removed from the United States,” Thomas Homan, the acting head
of ICE,
told the Times. Last week, when I asked an agency official about Jamal’s
case, he told me, “ICE does not exempt classes or categories of
removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

Just before the federal judge issued his stay, ICE moved Jamal from a
Missouri jail to one in El Paso, Texas. On Monday morning, another judge denied Jamal’s request to reopen his case, and he was flown to Hawaii, in preparation for his deportation. Later in the day, a second ruling, issued by a panel known as the Board of Immigration Appeals, granted Jamal another stay in response to an emergency petition from his lawyers. “We don’t know what will happen now,” Jamal’s brother told me. The deportation is delayed for as long as it takes the panel to review the case. As of Tuesday morning, ICE confirmed that Jamal was being held at a facility in Honolulu.

Article source: https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-ice-tearing-families-apart

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