Following the lead of President Trump – himself the son and husband of immigrants – many Republicans have embraced an intense hostility to immigrants not seen since the “Know Nothing” nativist movement of the 1850s.
By using words like “invasion,” “crisis” and “emergency” to describe unauthorized immigration and falsely claiming “our country is full,” the president is giving the American people a distorted and alarmist picture of unauthorized immigration that’s divorced from reality.
To hear the president tell it, we are threatened by hordes of murderers, rapists, drug dealers and violent gang members pouring into our country. This is a bunch of nonsense. Studies have shown immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S.
And while President Trump and many of his supporters say they are only against unauthorized immigration, the truth is that they want to make it harder for people from other countries to immigrate to the U.S. legally in a number of ways.
For example, the president has banned immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, ostensibly as an anti-terrorism measure. This is a scaled-down version of his blatantly unconstitutional Muslim Ban, a campaign promise made in December 2015, when he said: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
To hear the president tell it, we are threatened by hordes of murderers, rapists, drug dealers and violent gang members pouring into our country. This is a bunch of nonsense.
In addition, the president is reducing the number of refugees who can resettle in the U.S. He has no sympathy for people from war-torn lands fleeing for their lives.
Trump is also putting a hold on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows people brought to the U.S. without authorization as children to avoid deportation. Many DACA recipients have no memory of the countries where they were born and don’t speak the languages used in those nations. But Trump callously wants to boot them out.
On top of this, the president wants to end a program for Haitian immigrants, despite a recent spike in deadly violence in that country.
And President Trump has repeatedly voiced his desire to put a stop to so-called “chain migration,” ignoring the fact that first lady Melania Trump’s parents –Viktor and Amalija Knav – utilized the program to come to America. While the president is all for uniting members of his own extended family in the U.S., he has no desire to let other families do exactly the same thing.
The president even pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who allegedly ignored heinous sex crimes in order to racially profile potential unauthorized immigrants.
And besides a costly fencing project that he erroneously calls a “wall,” President Trump has targeted sanctuary cities and their leadership. He has taken aim at Oakland, California Mayor Libby Shaaf and threatened to send recently apprehended migrants to her city and other cities that welcome immigrants.
Shaaf has in turn accused the president of “fanning hate and division.” There’s no better way of describing what he is doing.
The president claims to be pro-law enforcement, but has threatened to cut federal funding to police departments in sanctuary cities. This makes no sense. Safety is one of many things that are misunderstood about sanctuary cities. They actually make the job of local law enforcement easier.
The first people to witness or fall victim to criminal behavior by unauthorized immigrants are most likely to be other immigrants. Also, both citizens and undocumented criminals target the unauthorized community as crime victims, because unauthorized immigrants fear reporting crimes against them.
According to one poll, 70 percent of undocumented immigrants said they are less likely to report that they were victim of a crime if police could potentially report their immigration status or that of their loved ones to federal officials.
Police want to apprehend criminals and often lament the lack of trust and cooperation they get from immigrants and communities of color. Sanctuary cities help police fight real crime.
In 2014, 364 counties and 39 cities decided against cooperating with federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials in the name of public safety. Though they were not called sanctuary policies, it was the same premise. The people who made these decisions were police chiefs and sheriffs, not left-wing politicians.
In addition, sanctuary cities are actually safer than others. Documented immigrants, whom Trump wants to limit, commit the fewest crimes. In 2015, Texas – ground zero for the immigration and border fencing battle – saw unauthorized immigrants receive 56 percent fewer criminal convictions than native-born Americans.
A University of California at San Diego study by Tim K. Wong also showed a correlation between low crime rates and local communities staying out of federal immigration enforcement. In fact, the difference was staggering. Counties that did not comply with ICE on immigration had 35 fewer crimes per 10,000 residents than those that did.
In other words, the new anti-immigration movement is actually based on emotions rather than actual data on what keeps communities safe.
Sanctuary is a word meaning a place of refuge or safety. When one actually looks at the data on sanctuary cities, it is certainly not criminal immigrants who are safe. The sanctuary movement protects our brave police officers who apprehend criminals regardless of their immigration status and protects the American people.
It’s long past time for Republicans and Democrats to work together for the benefit of our country and adopt comprehensive immigration reform. This should not be a political issue. It should not be the subject for hysteria. America was founded as a nation of immigrants and we should not turn our backs on our heritage.