As crackdown on illegal immigrants began, the phone at an organization in Austin that runs a deportation hotline is always ringing. The centre received more than 1,000 calls in three days by fearful immigrants who wanted information about the raids. They are a worried lot. Those who saw a friend or family was taken are scared by the raids.
Dozens of immigrants have been turning up at an advocacy groupâ€™s offices asking questions like, who would take care of their children if they are deported. Many immigrants are taking contingency measures. Bulk of immigrant parents are legally authorizing friends and relatives to pick up their kids and handle bank accounts to pay their bills in case they are arrested by law enforcement agent. They are carrying guides which explain what to do in any eventuality. And, Mexican families are reluctantly answering the door bell and make frantic phone calls if somebody is not home on time.
President Donald Trumpâ€™s order to crack down has spread fear and anxiety among an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. They are deploying methods not to come in authoritiesâ€™ radar. In many cities, immigrants have developed a network to keep each other updated on where immigration checkpoints have been set up. Under President Barack Obama, regulations for undocumented residents only applied to criminal aliens. Now, being in the US without papers will be the crime. The Trump administration has issued a warning that any illegal immigrant in the country who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. It includes petty crimes like shoplifting or other minor offenses. Some husbands and wives fear spouses who lack legal papers could be taken away. And parents can be separated from their US-born children. Trump policies have raised fears in Mexico about the possibility of deportee and refugee camps emerging along Mexicoâ€™s northern border.
Trump administrationâ€™s measures against immigrants are likely to take a toll on the meeting between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with top Mexican officials. Mexicoâ€™s foreign relation secretary has unequivocally said that the Mexican government and the Mexican people have no reason to accept unilateral decisions imposed by one government on another. The ever widening diplomatic schism over deportations and illegal immigration further worsens the already fraught relations between the two neighbours since Trump took office a month ago. Mexican President Pena Nieto cancelled his US visit over Trumpâ€™s insistence that Mexico pay billions for a border wall. Trump also announced to steep taxes on Mexican products, a move with profound impacts for Mexicoâ€™s export-heavy economy.
Trumpâ€™s executive order on undocumented immigrants may have economic consequences for US too. Deportation of immigrants will strain an already tight US job market. It is estimated that moving all of them would cost the economy as much as $5 trillion during 10 years.
Also, the real estate market will take a beating as immigrants have long been a pillar of growth in home-buying. At least one-third of total unauthorized immigrants in the US live in a home that they or a family member or friend own.
Hence, what is required that both US and Mexico should deploy pragmatic approach to resolve the crisis. Both countries must abandon vitriolic rhetoric and forge a strong partnership based on mutual respect.