This what immigration enforcement looks like in Donald Trump’s America:
▪ Last weekend, ICE agents were in an Atwater convenience store when four men walked in to get coffee before heading off to work. The agents left the store, but waited in the parking lot where they arrested three of the men. The fourth, who has a green card, says the agents mocked and laughed at him; he called them bullies. In all, 12 people were picked up across Northern California.
▪ A mother of three U.S. citizens, who has lived mostly in Modesto for the past 30 years, is being ordered to Mexico, despite the fact her cancer could kill her if deprived of medications.
▪ An adjunct professor in Kansas City for 30 years went for his annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and never came home to his wife and three U.S. citizen children. Only an intervention from a U.S. congressman allowed this sole provider to return home – for now.
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▪ Some 750,000 young people who have lived in America most of their lives – staying in school, getting jobs, serving in the military, paying taxes – remain in limbo. At the behest of President Trump, Republicans last month torpedoed negotiations to extend their protection against deportation.
Immigration enforcement in America has taken a wrong turn. It’s at once heartless, punitive and lazy. Heartless because it tears apart families; punitive because California, which dared to confront cruel inequities by becoming a symbolic “sanctuary” state, is being prioritized; lazy because ICE agents appear to be going after the easiest targets.
ICE says it’s targeting undocumented immigrants who are a danger to national security, but its own figures show the truth. The real spike in arrests are of immigrants without any criminal record – people buying a cup of coffee or checking on their immigration paperwork. In the last quarter of 2017, the number of non-criminal deportees hit 13,548 – nearly triple from the same three months in 2016.
Then there’s the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals dilemma. Every time a common-sense solution is proposed – by Republicans, Democrats or both – Trump makes sure xenophobes in Congress kill it. He sees Dreamers as bargaining chips for his ego wall and a means to end the very immigration policies that allowed his in-laws to come to America.
After ICE threatened 22 people whose right to work was protected under DACA, a federal judge ruled the action “arbitrary and irrational” as it deprived residents of their right to earn a living without a hearing. The U.S. Supreme Court was right to reject Trump’s request for a quick ruling so he could more rapidly start deporting the Dreamers – including roughly 12,000 in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. The delay isn’t a permanent fix – much less a path to citizenship – but it keeps Dreamers safe from deportation until the end of 2018.
Congress has been useless. Rep. Jeff Denham has been willing to work toward a compromise, but his efforts have gone nowhere. A bill introduced by 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans is stuck in a committee. We still believe Dreamers would be better served if Denham joined two other Republicans and signed a discharge petition to force an up-or-down vote on the House floor.
Some conservatives blame the FBI for ignoring the Florida shooter to prioritize other, less-important crimes. But when ICE goes after people with a coffee addiction rather than more serious criminals, those same people applaud.
Immigration is a deeply divisive issue, and an example of an America that has lost its way.