I’ve already written about why immigration is a feminist issue. 2015 was a year of change for many communities of color and we see what’s been happening in Oregon, with Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland, we must also connect the dots around how oppression works. Many of the problems being faced today are the result of inequalities created by white supremacy and hyper-capitalism. As such, here are some immigration policies (both good and bad) that made an impact in 2015.
1. California made state health care available to undocumented immigrants. In a move that is the first of its kind in the country, the state of California passed SB 4. This allows undocumented immigrants to buy healthcare with their own money and allows undocumented immigrants 19 and under to enroll in Medi-Cal if the state budget has enough money in its healthcare pool.
2. North Carolina signed an anti-immigrant bill into law. HB 318 was signed into law in October 2015 and no longer allows undocumented immigrants to use identification issued from their countries of origin. Given the lack of an immigration reform, this means many undocumented immigrants will be unable to use some of the only valid IDs they have. Furthermore, the bill was meant to crack down on sanctuary cities that reduce their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
3. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) was blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court. President Obama signed an executive order on November 2014 that would have allowed undocumented parents of American citizen children or lawful permanent residents (people with green cards) to obtain a work permit if their child had been in the US since January 1, 2010 or before. 26 states sued against this program and the permits have not been available as of yet. DAPA must now wait until the Supreme Court hears the Obama administration’s appeal sometime this year.
4. Donald Trump unleashed his dangerous immigration rhetoric into the GOP debate—and found much support, too. In various GOP debates, Donald Trump that he would like to deport every undocumented immigrant in the country. In addition, he proposed banning every Muslim immigrant from coming into the country and—to the surprise of many—also found a lot of support.
5. Jose Luis Sanchez, and undocumented immigrant from Tennessee, has been in jail for more than nine months despite the fact that he is eligible to legally stay in the country. In June 2015, Buzzfeed reported that Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested in Tennessee and on an old marijuana charge. Despite his former conviction, he is eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a work permit program that has existed since 2012. The case has gotten much attention due to the unusually long length of jail time.
6. Hundreds of undocumented immigrants staged a hunger strike. Many undocumented immigrants who have arrived to the US seeking asylum due to persecution in their home countries end up waiting in jails before they get the opportunity to speak with a judge. More than 1,000 people participated in hunger strikes beginning in October 2015 in the states of California, Colorado, Alabama, and Texas. The hunger strikers protested poor conditions such as receiving spoiled food, or not enough food. Many asylum-seekers lost their case but did not receive any documentation, which is needed if they choose to appeal. Several hunger strikers reported being placed in solitary confinement in retaliation.
7. Nationwide raids targeting Central-Americans were announced last year and have already begun across the country. In the summer of 2014, many families from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala crossed the border in what was known as the “border surge.” These families were seeking refuge from the violence in their countries, political instability, and gangs. Many of the asylum seekers were undocumented minors who were unaccompanied by adults. The first raids were reported in Georgia. The Obama Administration is targeting people who have been ordered to leave, but also places many families and children in danger.