Fix Immigration, But Show Compassion

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

As President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress block meaningful revision of America’s immigration policy, held hostage by the far right-wing base of the party, families are being torn apart at an ever-increasing pace.

President Trump won election partially by vilifying all immigrants, particularly those from Mexico and the Middle East. He aroused fears and prejudices.  He highlighted a few criminal cases. He highlighted the isolated murders, rapes, robberies, gangs, and the threat of terrorism. He made sure to push them to the front of his speeches despite statistics showing that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than a U. S. citizen.

His language hasn’t changed now that he holds office. In today’s internet world, where anger and vitriol spasm to the top, rendering reasonable thought objectionable, there is no room for compassionate acts.

His words turn into policy as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are emboldened to grab and detain any undocumented immigrants in America.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof shines a light on the unnecessary cruelty of the Trump-inspired assault on families of immigrants in America now underway. These people are not the criminal deviants he promised to ship back to their home countries, they are upstanding members of their communities. They contribute to our country’s vitality, economy, and character. They embody the best of who we are as a nation founded on the ambitions and drive of immigrants seeking a better life for their families.

As Syed A. Jamal, 55, of Lawrence, Kan., was leaving his home to drive his 12-year-old daughter to school recently, ICE agents stopped him. He was handcuffed. “Then they warned his crying wife and children, ages 7 to 14, that they could be arrested if they tried to hug him goodbye, and drove off with him — leaving a shattered family behind,” Kristof wrote.

Jamal doesn’t fit Trump’s profile of illegal immigrants. He is a college chemistry professor who has been in America for 30 years. He is a volunteer, a coach, and mentor. Jamal came to America legally from Bangladesh as a student, but overstayed his visa, and planted roots. His children are American citizens whose father is about to be shipped halfway around the world, maybe never to return to his family.

What does that mean for Jamal’s family and hundreds of others like his around the country facing similar fates?

“While this arrest has done nothing to make anyone safer, it is devastating for three American citizens in particular — his children. Researchers have found that such children often bounce around among relatives, suffer in school and display self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting themselves,” Kristof writes. It means our government has taken a father who supported his family and forced him to leave them on their own.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 25,000 people deported in 2016 have children who are American citizens, he reports. Under the Obama administration, those immigrants who were clearly beneficial to America were given the right to stay here despite their illegal status. That has all changed, diminishing America.

Monday debate began in the U.S. Senate on immigration policy and the fate of “Dreamers.” Dreamers are the children of immigrants, most just small children who grew up going to our schools, attending our churches, becoming integral parts of community organizations, earning medical degrees, and serving in the military. They’ve become our neighbors. Many can’t speak the language of their parent’s native countries.

It is estimated there are 700,000 young people in America who are the children of illegal immigrants, and who have been protected by Obama’s executive order called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.) It has allowed them to continue to work and live in America, protecting them from ICE agents. Trump plans to end DACA by March 5.

He has been saying he wants to help the Dreamers and has even suggested a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants that include those who haven’t signed up for the DACA program as well as those who have recently arrived. His proposal is tied to getting $25 billion for his wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Before he compromises on any immigration policy, Trump also wants to end what some call “chain migration” that they say allows immigrants to sponsor distant family relatives who move to the U.S. But the law provides limits. U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents, children, siblings, and adult children. Their first cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents don’t qualify. There are also caps and waiting periods as high as 19 years. Just 65,000 siblings are allowed into the U.S. and only 23,400 married children are allowed to be sponsored each year. Sponsorship does not guarantee eventual citizenship.

Sixty-five percent of Americans favor legal status for Dreamers. Even a slight majority of Republicans, 51 percent, favor legal status. Sixty percent of Americans say Trump’s wall is a waste of tax dollars. However, a strong majority of Republicans, 68 percent, want a wall.

One roadblock to meaningful immigration reform is Trump’s wavering positions. Will Congress get, “The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him?” Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake asks. He refers to the Trump that can offer a compromise one day, but after getting blasted by his base and ultra-conservative advisors in the White House, changes his tune quickly.

There is a chance the Senate can reach a compromise deal, but unless it gets close 70 senators in favor, it is not likely to go anywhere. Getting compromise legislation in the House, particularly in an election year, is considered nearly impossible unless Trump actively works his far-right conservative base to accept a deal.

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