Who ICE targets and who they prioritize

By Hayley Thompson
April 9, 2019


The Obama administration prioritized the removal of undocumented immigrants in the United States who were considered a threat to public safety or held a criminal record. President Trump changed that policy and now anyone who is undocumented, no matter the circumstances, could possibly be a target.

Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 that makes it even harder than it previously was for refugees to enter the United States but it especially excludes Syrian refugees from entry. The executive order, titled “Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” prohibits all Syrians from entering the United States at this time.

“Syrian refugee playing his pain melody on his toes like piano keys..” What if this was your child? (Photo by Bengin Ahmad on Flickr)

“I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry,” the executive order reads. Although Trump chose to not allow any Syrians entry, he promises to construct safe zones in Syria for displaced citizens affected by the war to relocate.

Syrians are not the only large group of people who are affected by this order. Anybody from a “terror-prone” country will not be granted entry. According to a White House official reported by CNN, citizens from Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia will likely not be allowed entry.

It is obvious that Trump does not want many people from the Middle East to enter the United States. However, Trump’s new order targets just about anyone because the decision is in the hands of the immigration officer. Each individual immigration officer now has the power to make their own judgement on what is considered a threat to public safety. Trump’s broad executive order allows for just about anyone to be detained for questioning by ICE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – and the deciding factor can be up to that single officer.

The Obama administration helped to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children in hopes of finding education or work. Immigrants in this category are not part of Trump’s priority as he said he wants to focus on removing the “bad dudes.”

In an interview with The Brody File, President Trump says that Christians will be given priority when applying for a refugee status because they have been horribly treated. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very, very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible,” Trump said.

Religious studies professor Dr. Leonard Primiano said that Islamic extremists in the Middle East are trying to purge Muslim countries from any other religious presence, particularly Christian.

“It is true that a variety of Christian groups – especially members of what are called the ‘Separated Eastern Christian Churches’ in the Middle East – have been violently persecuted including bombings of their churches during liturgies by Islamic extremists,” Primiano said.

However, he also recognizes that extremists are persecuting Muslims as well and that all people seeking asylum should have a fair chance with entering the United States.

“Christian notions of welcoming the stranger would naturally ask that secular governments open their nations to all people seeking asylum from violence, abuse, hatred and persecution no matter what their religious orientation,” Primiano said.

A protestor at the Stop Separating Immigrant Families Press Conference and Rally in Chicago. (Photo by Charles Edward Miller on Flickr)

Trump further elaborated his statement on Christians by saying that everyone was “persecuted in all-fairness” and that “they were chopping off the heads of everybody” but it was all targeted more towards Christians. He chose to prioritize Christians because he thought that the target against them was very unfair and he really wanted to help them. During that interview, Trump showed empathy for the persecuted Christians in Syria but he did not show empathy for the persecuted Muslims in Syria.

“The people in Syria have been under constant threat,” religious studies professor Dr. Francis Klose said.  “The afflicted includes not only Christians, but Muslims who have been targeted by the ‘Islamic State’ and other insurgents, too.”

Christians in Syria are not the only group of people who are persecuted. However, they are the only group of people Trump wants to help and refuge.

“I am greatly disappointed if a country, with no established religion, would only provide refuge for a particular religion,” Klose said. “Such a move would be opposed to the constitution, simple human decency, and speaking from the perspective of a Catholic Christian, opposed to God’s law.”

According to America Magazine, Pope Francis greatly emphasizes the need to protect undocumented workers. At the Sixth International Forum on Migration and Peace, Pope Francis said that we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters who are forced to leave their homeland. “Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.”

Religious studies professor Dr. Nicholas Rademacher pointed out how Pope Francis noted the importance of hospitality and solidarity.

“As Pope Francis has reminded us, welcoming refugees is a moral imperative,” Rademacher said.

As of right now, ICE by order of President Trump is specifically not allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States. Refugees from most areas in the Middle East are considered “terror-prone” and will not be granted entry as well. Christian refugees are considered a priority when it comes to seeking asylum in the United States.

Hayley Thompson

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