Immigration experts have released for the first time an estimate of how many immigrants could be targeted as a priority for deportation under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Out of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the country, an estimated eight million of them could be considered priorities for deportation, according to an analysis published by the Los Angeles Times that included input from experts who reviewed existing executive orders and other internal documents sent to Homeland Security officials.
The idea that eight million immigrants could be a priority for deportation under Trump is shocking considering the previous administration identified about 1.4 million people a priority for removal—and that led to President Obama deporting more people than any other president.
“Those are numbers that are high enough that even people outside of the immigrant community will notice their neighbors are missing,” said Tania Unzueta, policy and legal director for Mijente, a group that organizes for the rights of the Latinx and Chicanx community.
The reality is that everyone living in the U.S. would notice more than just neighbors missing if eight million people were deported. Immigrants who came to this country and shared their art, music, food, love, and laughter would be disappeared. The U.S. workforce would lose eight million unauthorized workers that are more likely than U.S.-born workers to work in the hospitality, construction, and agriculture industries. Construction sites would come to a halt, vegetables in fields would rot, hotels beds would go unmade, and executives wouldn't be able to go work without nannies and housekeepers.
Getting rid of DACA alone would cost the U.S. economy $433.4 billion in lost growth over a decade. And the already struggling Social Security Administration would lose out on the $12 billion a year that are paid into the system by undocumented workers who only receive $1 billion in benefits in return.
As the Obama administration did, Trump has claimed his administration will prioritize immigrants who have been charged with violent crimes for deportation, but memos sent to Homeland Security signal Trump will go beyond deporting “bad hombres.”
The L.A. Times reports two memos sent to top Homeland Security officials proposed policies that could lead to people being “booked into custody for using food stamps or if their child receives free school lunches.” The memos also call for nearly doubling the number of people held in immigration detention to 80,000 per day and empowering local police to question people they believe are in the country illegally.
For immigrants in places like Arizona and Georgia, many of the policies the Trump administration is proposing come as no surprise—they live were similar laws already exist.
“Trump is not talking about new policies; he’s taking the worst that’s already out there and expanding it to the rest of country” Unzueta told me in a telephone interview.
Now immigrants rights advocates say it’s time to learn how undocumented immigrants have been surviving in places like Arizona and Georgia and share those self-defense strategies across the country.
In Chicago, where Unzueta is based, immigrant rights groups are already offering advice to people who were considered a priority under the Obama administration because they’ll likely be a target under Trump.
“We’re actually telling people just not to open the door,” Unzueta said. “If there’s a criminal warrant signed by a judge then whatever law enforcement official shows up will just come in anyway."
Across the country, immigrant rights organizers are also preparing the undocumented community by teaming up with other marginalized groups.
“Our folks continue to build locally and are engaging in coalition work with black, Muslim, undocumented, Southeast Asian, trans and queer communities to build local power and fight back,” said Jorge Gutierrez, the national coordinator at Familia: TQLM, a group that works in close collaboration with LGBTQ Latinx immigrants. “Right now is the moment to see beyond our communities and organize to create sanctuary cities, states, and regions that protect the lives and safety of everyone."