What are the rules?
Federal immigration policies need certainty
INWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE magine yourself a native of a foreign land who, years ago, seized an opportunity to better provide for your family, to relocate them to a place that’s safer and filled with possibilities. Imagine you’ve built a new life, virtually from scratch. And imagine you’ve done it all knowing your arrangement would never pass legal scrutiny.
Statisticians tell us the United States is home today to more than 11 million people who are not legally in the country. That’s down from a peak of more than 12 million in 2007, but still representative of wave after wave of people since the early 1990s who have entered and remained in the U.S. illegally.
They’re from Mexico. They’re from Asia. They’re from Central America. They’re from Europe. People from all around the globe have decided they want to live in the United States.
Northwest Arkansas advocates for people who are not authorized to live in this country told reporter Dan Holtmeyer the uncertainty stemming from Donald Trump’s immigration policies has caused anxiety among the people they’re fighting for. On the one hand, the administration has so far continued the Obama-era program that postpones any enforcement against people who came into the country illegally as children.
And yet an intensified level of immigration enforcement has people on edge.
“You should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried,” acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Thomas Homan told members of Congress last month.
That sounds cruel, doesn’t it? It sounds threatening. And it’s unfortunate for people who are not in compliance with U.S. law if they come into contact with enforcement agents.
The only solution for such anxieties is a well-defined, long-term federal policy on immigration that will be enforced fully by federal authorities. Until that happens, there will be no certainties. People will constantly have to wonder what would happen to them if they were caught and identified. Until our president and Congress develops a comprehensive approach to immigration and its enforcement, anxiety is going to be a part of the mix of emotions related to this issue. As we hear in the business world all the time, it’s uncertainty and a lack of predictability that sends the stock market into convulsions. When it comes to immigration, it isn’t stocks caught up in the frenzy; it’s people.
“There’s a certain resignation to a new level of fear and distrust,” said Mireya Reith, director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition that helps run a Springdale immigrant center. “This is what happens when you don’t take a comprehensive approach that’s been well thought-out and announced.”
Such a comprehensive approach will not come from people who believe the United States has no right to enforce its borders, that people who have decided to seek better lives for their families have some inalienable right to come to this land. It also will not come from people who believe the federal government can round up 11 million people and ship them back to their native lands.
To the extent that tougher enforcement discourages continuation of illegal immigration, it’s a step in the right direction. But people who take any joy in the prospects of tearing families apart are incapable of fully appreciating the human dimensions of this tragic situation.
Those we send to Washington, D.C., owe more attention, not just talk, to this issue. It’s not right to leave anyone — citizen, legal visitor or people who are here illegally — in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The United States can afford more legal immigration that creates more opportunities for people to share in the nation’s bounty.
But any real immigration reform will also clearly establish a line that defines who is legal and who is not, and some people will be on the losing end of that determination.
Cries of anxiety and a lack of compassion will always follow.