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The 5 most important immigration stories of 2017

From DACA to the travel ban, here are the stories that most impacted Minnesota immigrant and refugee communities. 

President Donald Trump’s first executive order on immigration created chaos as federal agencies detained hundreds of refugees at airports — including a Minnesota family.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder

When President Donald Trump took office earlier this year, many people wondered if he would actually follow through on the controversial promises he made as a presidential candidate.

Those promises included barring citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, reducing the number of refugee admissions, increasing deportations of undocumented residents and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.    

The president has kept all those promises. In 2017, he signed a flurry of executive orders that blocked people of several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.; he slashed the number of refugee admissions by more than half; and he rescinded the DACA program, which allowed undocumented immigrants, who came to the U.S. as children, to live and work here legally.

In Minnesota, home to more than 450,000 foreign-born residents, the immigration crackdown has affected thousands of people. They also sparked outrage and protests against the Trump administration.

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Here’s a list of the five most important immigration stories in 2017:

1. The travel ban leaves a Minnesota family in limbo
By the time President Trump signed the executive order that barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. in January, Binto Adan and her 8-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter were already on their way to reunite with their family in Willmar.

Unaware of the order, which had prevented individuals like her from coming to the country, the Somali refugee woman and her children landed at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., where they were immediately detained by federal immigration agencies.

The agencies then called Farah Anshur, Adan’s husband — who had expected to pick up his family from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Jan. 28, the day after the order was signed — and told him that his family was under deportation procedure.

Before the procedure was finalized, however, a federal judge blocked the order, and Anshur’s wife and children were released after a 20-hour airport detention.   

2. DACA gets canceled
In September, Trump signed another executive order that ended the DACA program, an action that affects more than 6,000 recipients — aka Dreamers — in Minnesota. Among them is David Soto, who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documents in 1992 when he was six years old.

Over the years, Soto put himself through college. In 2012, when the Obama administration authorized the DACA program, Soto became eligible to apply for a driver’s license, live and work in the U.S. legally — and without the fear of deportation.   

Since the Trump administration ended the DACA program in September, however, Soto and other Dreamers find themselves facing an uncertain future.   

3. Thousands of TPS holders become subject to deportation
In May, the Trump administration terminated the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for thousands of West African immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in 2014 following the Ebola outbreak that killed thousands of people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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Roselyn Lawrence, of Crystal, is one of them. The Liberian native had been working for Boston Scientific for two years when the government decided to end the program that allowed her to live and work in the U.S. legally.

Today, Lawrence and about 100 Minnesota residents like her aren’t eligible to work or drive legally. They’re also subject to deportation.

4. An immigration lawyer takes on the Trump administration
John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, has long been a popular figure among the state’s immigrant communities for his legal service to immigrants and refugees.

But in the wake of the series of immigration executive actions, Keller found himself on the front lines of the struggle to resist Trump’s anti-immigration policies. In February alone, for example, he spoke at scores of events, forums and press conferences about what the orders meant for immigrants and refugees.

In a MinnPost story in March, people who know Keller praised him for his commitment to providing free legal services to the community. “He’s my superhero,” said Michelle Rivero, an immigration attorney with the Rivero Law Office, LLC in St. Paul. “He performs a very vital function, and people depend on him.”

Rabbi Morris Allen, of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, added: “He works in a way that’s quiet and unassuming. Thank God we have John Keller doing the work he’s doing to protect human dignity at all cost.”

5. Fewer refugees get resettled
In 2017, the Trump administration announced a plan to reduce the number of refugees admitted in the U.S. in the 2018 fiscal year to 45,000, the lowest the country has seen in decades. Minnesota has five refugee resettlement agencies that receive funding from the federal government — which means the reduction of the number of refugees will likely cost the organizations a lot of money. That’s why many of them have laid off some workers and deployed others to other service programs.