Mexican Immigrants Face Threats to Civil Rights and Increased Social Hostility
The report summarizes the continuities and shifts in immigration enforcement between the presidencies of Barack Obama (2009-2016) and Donald Trump (2017-present). It sheds light on the laws and policies of immigration enforcement, their implementation, and their effects. The focus is on assessing the extent to which the policies directly or indirectly create civil rights abuses of, and acts of social hostility toward, Mexican immigrants. People born in Mexico are the largest immigrant group in the United States and are the ethnic group that has been repeatedly targeted by Trump first as candidate and then as president.
Primary sources of evidence include administrative data collected by the Department of Homeland Security that is publicly available or which was released in response to the authors’ request. Freedom of Information Act requests, hate crime incidents reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State of California Department of Justice, texts of laws and executive actions, and landmark court cases.
A unique source of evidence for how Mexican migrants are experiencing changes between the Obama and Trump administrations is the Survey of Migration at Mexico’s Northern Border (EMIF Norte for its Spanish acronym), which has been fielded in waves during this entire period. The report also draws on accounts from other academics, researchers, and investigative journalists.
The report provides evidence where possible on the experience of Mexican-born migrants in particular, even as many of the experiences reported here affect larger populations, including all Latinos in the United States regardless of birthplace, other immigrants, and other racial minorities. We pay particular attention to the experience of the more than 4 million Mexican immigrants in California, home to more than a third of all Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Beginning in the 1970s, the state of California and the jurisdictions within it have led the way on sanctuary policies as well as opposing efforts to eliminate unauthorized immigrants’ access to public services. Since the 2000s, the state government of California has been a leader in many policies that are more accommodating of unauthorized immigrants.
The vast state includes counties and cities that have enacted accommodating policies, as well as other jurisdictions that have created harsher policies.
The report finds evidence of direct violations of civil rights, including family separations as an immigration deterrent, racial profiling of Mexicans and other Latinos, and instances of the abuse of force by immigration officials and police. On the whole, the indirect effects of recent and longstanding immigration policies are much larger and affect many more people.
These indirect effects include border enforcement policies leading to a large-scale, on-going, and predictable loss of life of clandestine entrants as well as interior enforcement policies that make the Latino community on the whole more fearful, vulnerable, and that reduce their access to the equal protections of law enforcement and access to eligible public benefits. State-sponsored rhetoric creates a hostile environment for Latino immigrants in particular. The indirect effects of border and interior enforcement share many similarities across the Obama and Trump administrations.