Acting on the lurid demonization of immigrants as criminals that kicked off his campaign, President Donald Trump recently issued two anti-immigrant executive orders.
As a result, a Mexican citizen living in El Paso, Texas, was detained when she left a battered women’s shelter where she had sought a protective order against her abusive boyfriend.
Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, and Josue Romero, 19, who are in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly called DACA, were detained despite no criminal history.
Jeanette Vizguerra sought refuge inside a Denver church in order to avoid being detained and separated from her family and home of two decades.
This is madness. Immigrants pose no special danger to the United States.
Immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than those born in the U.S., and communities with high concentrations of immigrants generally have lower crime rates.
Trump supporters conveniently overlook that among immigrants who have been convicted of federal offenses, 68 percent have merely been convicted of “unlawfully entering or remaining in the United States.”
Not one of the perpetrators of the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the massacre at Virginia Tech, the slaughter of children at Newtown, the tragic killings in San Bernardino, the murders of military personnel at Fort Hood, the Sikh temple rampage in Wisconsin, or the deadly onslaught at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater would have been stopped by the recent anti-immigrant executive orders.
Rather than prevent future acts of carnage, these orders cruelly inflict pain on millions of immigrant families and harm our nation’s worldwide standing.
There are 43 million immigrants currently living in the United States. About 11 million — though many of them are longtime residents — do not have legal documentation to remain here. They live in a shadow economy where they often accept work for below-minimum wages to survive.
Because of their vulnerable legal status, undocumented immigrants are often victims of abuse, controlled by the threat of deportation.
About 2 million young people living in the United States were born in a foreign country. Many of them have DACA status, under which they can go to school and work.
Yet President Trump’s waffling views leave them concerned about deportation to countries they barely know or remember.
The executive orders have also created havoc for many legal, long-term residents. Among those who have faced difficulties trying to re-enter the United States is an ACLU lawyer who had a naturalization ceremony scheduled the next day.
Like building a wall along the Mexican border, devoting additional resources to deporting people who pose no risk to American security is expensive and wasteful. Rather than squander money on a huge deportation force, we need to find a constructive path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, who are the backbone of the farming, construction and high-tech industries.
More fundamentally, the executive orders fly in the face of the bedrock American value of offering refuge to those “yearning to breathe free.”
Do we want to be known as the country that closed our doors to the people facing enormous hardship and deprivation? Do we want to promote explicit anti-Muslim bias both at home and abroad?
Absorbing a few thousand refugees from war-torn nations, who have faced years of vetting, is the least we can do to help the world’s tired and poor. I want to be proud to be an American.
Ruth Colker is a distinguished professor and the Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at Ohio State University. She is the author of 14 books on various aspects of constitutional law and disability rights. Readers may write her at Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th St., Columbus, Ohio, 43210.