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Need to Know: DACA’s Future, Sessions vs. the Sanctuary State, and Why It’s High Time to Abolish ICE

While legislative and court efforts around Trump’s DACA removal have largely stalled, Jeff Sessions has targeted California’s immigrants as ICE continues to act as a 21st century Gestapo.

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Here at MERRY JANE we’re convinced that the world revolves around cannabis. From politics to culture, civil rights to economics, you can find keef dusted across every facet of modern life. But in these increasingly divided times, where natural disasters go damn-near ignored for two months and Twitter fingers have almost literally become trigger fingers, it's become increasingly important to highlight the most pressing news outside of the cannabis space. In a recurring round-up, MERRY JANE will break down the stories making waves in media, politics, technology, and culture — keeping you up to date on what’s making our world tick. Here's what you Need to Know.

At the beginning of 2018, fresh off of California’s first adult-use cannabis sales and the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we broke down what was then a congressional crisis concerning the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the so-called Dreamers who benefit from it. In September 2017, Trump unilaterally announced he would end DACA in March, and by January, Democratic legislators were threatening to force a government shutdown if the decision wasn’t reversed with Dreamer protections reinstated.

Now, with Trump’s original DACA deadline having passed as lower federal courts review the legality of his decision, federal lawmakers have largely shifted their focus from Dreamers to guns in schools. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to ramp up its immigration enforcement efforts, both in communities across the country and in the courtroom, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently suing California over state “sanctuary” laws intended to protect undocumented residents.

Combined, the last two months have demonstrated that the Trump administration has no intention of slowing its racially charged anti-immigration goals, most recently prompting a number of liberals to adopt long standing calls to disband the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency altogether.

To break down those recent developments, we’ve compiled deep dives from around the web to keep you informed on DACA’s uncertain future, Sessions’ lawsuits against the Golden State, and why the abolition of ICE is necessary for true immigration reform. This is what you need to know about immigration in America.

Congress Loses Key Immigration Deal Ingredient: A Deadline
Elana Schor and Heather Caygle for Politico
 

In January, the fight to protect Dreamers from Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was front page news across the country. With a congressional budget still being debated, Democratic lawmakers repeatedly threatened to cause a government shutdown if DACA was not reinstated, while Trump and Republicans would only budge on the deal if Dems agreed to billions of dollars in funding for the president’s long-promised southern border wall.

Since then, two federal court injunctions have temporarily halted the president’s decision and suspended Trump’s proposed March deadline for DACA’s termination, but in doing so, have pulled congressional attention away from Dreamers, creating a legal purgatory for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who are still waiting for concrete legislative solutions or further action from federal courts.

Currently, though, neither of those options appear to be a pressing priority for lawmakers or federal judges. In late February, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not be interceding in the case concerning Trump’s DACA decision, deferring any final decision until it can be tried in a lower court, or is resolved by legislators — a path that is looking less likely now that lawmakers’ attention has shifted away from immigration and towards gun reform in the wake of February’s deadly Parkland, Florida school shooting.

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“There’s no question that having the injunction stay in effect takes away a little bit of the urgency of some people to act,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters in late February, after the Supreme Court rejected a sped-up trial to determine DACA’s future.

In that same week, Connecticut Democratic Congressman John Larson added, “we'll kick the can down the road...it's going to be past another election cycle [before a final DACA decision is made].”

So while current recipients are still allowed to apply for DACA renewal, the federal government is under no obligation to accept any of those requests, and has not slowed down its ultimate goal of instilling fear in the lives of Dreamers and undocumented immigrants across America.

Jeff Sessions' Lawsuit Against California's "Sanctuary" Laws, Explained
Dana Lind for Vox
 

Taking a break from his so-far unsuccessful war on weed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has lead his own immigration crusade, focusing not on DACA or Dreamers, but on California’s state legislation barring state agencies, officials, and employers from assisting ICE, America’s increasingly visible immigration enforcement agency responsible for inhumane raids, politically-motivated arrests, and deportations across the country.

In a rebuke of California’s “sanctuary” laws, Sessions has filed three lawsuits against the Golden State, arguing that efforts to hinder ICE enforcement actions violate the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which invalidates any state law that is in direct conflict with federal statute.

However, even with California politicians and immigration advocates quick to refer to the Golden State as a “sanctuary” for immigrants, regardless of their documentation status, the state’s laws cannot ultimately stop federal enforcement efforts. So while California cops have denied ICE any aid in locating or rounding up undocumented immigrants, that hasn’t stopped the federal cops from performing their own raids. In fact, as noted by Lind, California’s local ICE-blocking initiatives have only angered Sessions and the immigration cops, leading to the AG’s very public lawsuits and an increase in highly visible immigration raids.

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So despite a number of attorneys claiming that no lawsuit can force state officials to spend their money how the federal government wants it to, the reality on the ground is that, whether Sessions’ days in court are successful or not, as long as Donald Trump’s ideals remain unchallenged in Washington, ICE will continue to act as a modern day American gestapo, using racist policing tactics to detain and deport immigrants as they see fit, without any transparency, compassion, or effective oversight.

It's Time to Abolish ICE
Sean McElwee for The Nation
 

As the racist, nationalist authoritarianism of the Trump administration’s immigration policy has emerged as a sticking point in the constantly circling carousel of 24-hour news cycles, a number of high profile liberals have begun calling for the total elimination of ICE and its enforcement powers.

To be clear, a call to stop treating America’s undocumented immigrants like criminals has existed long before Donald Trump took office, but under 45, whose 2016 campaign focused almost exclusively on painting immigrants —and specifically Mexicans — as a threat to national security, those raids have become a daily occurrence, with immigrant communities across the country constantly looking over their shoulder for the feds, even if they’ve lived in America for decades and done nothing illegal.

In the year since Trump took office, ICE officers have consistently made their presence known, performing heavily armed raids, often illegally detaining legal citizens, separating children from their parents and specifically targeting political activists opposed to their authoritarian actions.

And as the agency has proven in so-called sanctuary states like California, local legislative efforts can slow, but not stop ICE’s reign of terror. To that point, McElwee notes the emergence of prospective politicians who are using their campaigns to advocate for ending ICE altogether, adding a much-needed dose of humanity to the nation’s overarching immigration policy.

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“Instead of making our communities safer, ICE has taught immigrants to fear and distrust law enforcement,” said Jessica Ramos, a state Senate candidate in Queens, New York, one of the country’s most diverse communities, to The Nation. “It’s absolutely time to defund the agency and start working on real, common-sense immigration reform.”

Encouragingly, the fight against ICE has also been taken up from the agency’s interior, with spokesman James Schwab resigning from his role this week, telling reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle that he quit because he no longer felt comfortable lying to the public in service of his employer, as ICE officials had requested of him after a recent Bay Area raid was disrupted by a public announcement from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. ICE agents had originally claimed that Schaaf’s public warning to local immigrants had caused more than 800 criminals to escape capture — a falsehood that Schwab refused to report.

Like McElwee, Ramos, Schaaf and a growing number of humanitarian voices, we at MERRY JANE stand behind calls to abolish ICE, especially considering the federal agency’s use of minor cannabis arrests as a justification for community raids and deportation.

As we continue to move towards comprehensive marijuana reform in every corner of the United States, it is increasingly important that the cannabis community actively pushes back against America’s racist status quo, recognizing immigrant innovation, ownership, and participation as a critical aspect of the fights for both cannabis legalization and true social justice at large.

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