Contradictions from the Trump administration regarding immigration policy and gaping discrepancies between what is said and what is happening leave Americans with more questions than answers. President Trump stated he will go after the “bad hombres.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said, “If you are simply here illegally, we don’t really have the time to go after you. We are looking for bad men and women.”
Yet haphazard labeling makes everyone, dreamer or not, a criminal. It is becoming common to apply that epithet to everyone. Such calculated imprecision gives one crucial linguistic latitude to paint with broad, prejudice-stoking strokes. Ever the dealer, Trump is the master of opportunistic vagueness. But while inconsistency is his trademark and vagaries exist in decoding his administration’s intentions, data leaves little to the imagination.
A report by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows there has been a 37.6 percent increase in arrests by ICE this year compared to the same period last year (ice.gov/features/100-days). Many such arrests are welcomed. It is widely accepted that convicted criminals who commit violent crimes deserve priority removal from our borders. A sovereign nation ought to protect its citizens from harm. But of this overall increase, a startling statistic emerges: a 52.3 percent increase in arrests of “at-large” individuals with no criminal record. This begs the question: Who, exactly, is Trump targeting, beyond the violent criminals he promised to remove?
Two cases in point: Teresa “Betty” Castro-Ramos, a single mother of a disabled U.S. citizen son, and Silvia Avelar-Flores, a “dreamer.” Neither woman, by any stretch of the imagination, qualifies as a “bad hombre” or poses credible threats to the United States, yet both were recently targeted by ICE for deportation.
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So what is the real focus of this administration? “Bad hombres” or breadwinners? Criminals or caregivers? The impact of increased detention and effort of removal of nonviolent immigrants has incalculable consequences for citizens of the United States of America.
Teresa’s disabled son received health insurance through his mother’s job. In her absence, after being deported back to Colombia, his health care and medical treatment, of necessity, falls to taxpayers, whereas it had been provided for by his taxpaying mother for nearly two decades. Is this a consequence citizens are eager and ready to absorb?
Silvia’s detention deprived her young children of access to their mother. It doesn’t require a degree in psychology to understand there are negative impacts of forced separation of caregiver parents from their young children.
Anti-immigrant sentiment is flaring, fueled by the rhetoric of a reckless administration. When engineers from India are targeted and accused as radical terrorists, when people of color are indiscriminately screamed at to “go home” in big-box retail stores, when behavior that flies in the face of American values is creeping into the ordinary, will true patriots rally to the cause and speak up in defense of immigrants, the very demographic that incubated and shaped America? Are not we all immigrants?
Courtney Lennberg, of Meridian, is refugee and immigration committee lead for Mormon Women For Ethical Government (MWEG).