By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief


Adriano Udani, assistant professor in the department of political science, addressed a crowded room at a What’s Current Wednesday discussion on the topic of immigration relative to President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order on immigration, which banned travel to the United States from seven countries for 90 days. That order was stayed by several federal judges, and the injunction was upheld in the Ninth Judicial Circuit at the appellate court.

Udani led the monthly discussion for a packed crowd in Millennium Student Center room 316 at 2 p.m. on March 1.

Udani said, “I’ve tried to look for many silver linings in the last couple of months. One is that we are learning that our system of government has checks and balances in the sense that our courts have helped us check an abusive power.”

“The 14th amendment, as well as the fourth and fifth, helped to grant the injunction against Trump’s travel ban,” explained Udani.

From 2000 to 2015, President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama made the removal of those who posed a threat to the country a priority. Udani explained that Trump’s executive order broadens the definition of criminal threat and the level of threat to include minor offenses like speeding tickets. Udani said, “[Trump’s executive order] expands the category of people who are classified as a priority for removal. … Any civil disobedience … is considered grounds for you to be considered priority for deportation.”

The expansion of what is considered a threat has increased the number of people targeted in the country from 3 million to upwards of 11 million people, according to Udani.

Udani explained that the current executive order retains President Obama’s protection policy for the Dreamer class of immigrants, which refers to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that was introduced in 2001 and reintroduced years after but never passed. The act would grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrant children who went to school in the U.S. Since these individuals became acclimated to the culture and the education system, many Dreamers feel that they are Americans. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was used famously under President Obama to expand protection to undocumented immigrants fleeing from violence.

The executive order includes components that no previous administration had focused on before. The order targets undocumented immigrants and their children. Unaccompanied illegal immigrant children can be deported, and their parents can be prosecuted. This is a new practice, according to Udani, who cited Stephen H. Legomsky from Washington University. Udani said, “Families who try to get their kids into the country and try to escape any violence back home can be prosecuted as criminals, and any unaccompanied children found on U.S. soil can be sent back unaccompanied to their countries which they are fleeing from.” He added that the order also revokes undocumented immigrants’ rights to due processes and hearings.

The executive order renews the Secure Communities program that President Obama discontinued in 2014. This program required the federal government to create partnerships with local agencies and deputized local agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. Udani said, “Secure Communities was discontinued in 2014 because a lot police officers and local agents hated the program. They didn’t want to enforce local immigration laws. But now, in the wave of the 2016 election, more people have jumped on to this.”

Lynn Staley, associate teaching professor in English, spoke to the matter that not all agencies, cities, or universities would be required to participate in the program. UMSL and the UM System have decided not to participate. Staley said, “The UMSL Police Department has specifically said they will never do that, because that is their policy.”

Udani offered advice on how students can be involved in helping immigrants. The Missouri Immigrants and Refugee Advocates (MIRA) is Missouri’s only statewide coalition for immigrant and refugee rights. Next week, the coalition is hosting a lobby day in Jefferson City to make their concerns and interests known to the state legislature.

What’s Current Wednesdays are monthly forums for faculty and student discussions about current events, co-sponsored by The Current and The New York Times, with support from Community Outreach & Engagement at UMSL.

The next discussion will be April 5.