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Helping undocumented immigrants now a crime under Trump

The executive order on Sanctuary Cities signed by the president makes it illegal to "facilitate" the presence of "aliens." The rule is similar to Arizona's controversial 2010 state law, SB1070, that was challenged in the courts.
27 Ene 2017 – 01:58 PM EST
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Un indocumentado es revisado por un agente migratorio en una terminal de autobuses. Crédito: Getty Images

Easily overlooked in the small print of President Donald Trump's Sanctuary Cities Executive Order signed Wednesday is a clause making it a crime to help an undocumented immigrant.

The sweeping wording is contained in Section 6 of the executive action titled 'Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,' and would appear to include even the actions of legal immigrants seeking to protect undocumented family members.

The Secretary of Homeland Security "shall issue guidance and promulgate regulations ... to ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties ... from aliens unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the United States," it reads.

The rule is similar to one that was included in an early draft of Arizona's controversial 2010 anti-immigrant bill SB1070, which proposed making it a Class One misdemeanor to "conceal, harbor or shield" an undocumented immigrant. Class 1 misdemeanors carry a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail.

On that occasion Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer did not include the Good Samartian clause in the final version of the bill that passed.

Deja vu

"Unfortunately we are seeing the same thing again," said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, an immigrant aid organization.

"We already lived this in our state in 2010. Now we see that the government of Trump is imitating this practice," Falcon added.

The president was trampling the rights of the people in his use of executive action on Sanctuary cities, according to Falcon. "Now more than ever we have to know our rights, remain silent if you are stopped, be prepared for a raid and have a plan to know what to do in an emergency situation," she added.

SB1070 was the first law of its kind in the country. Among the recommendations included in its original draft, it required local police officers to question or require a person to declare their immigration status.

Public opinion was deeply divided over the law which sparked protests across the country as well as a boycott of Arizona.

It was challenged in the courts by a class action lawsuit, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice and an injunction was granted blocking some of its key elements, including the requirement by police to check the immigration status of those stopped or detained.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the offending parts of Sections 3 and 6 of the law were preempted by federal law, including a requirement that all immigrants carry documentation of lawful presence in the country. It upheld a part of the law allowing Arizona police to investigate the immigration status of someone stopped or detained, but only if there was a reasonable suspicion they were not in the country legally.

Legal experts point out that Trump's executive action is now federal policy and thus could maybe better withstand legal challenges than SB1070.

Additional reporting by David Adams