The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Americans need to focus on the atrocities afflicting migrants at our border

- Esther J. Cepeda Columnist

A decade ago, reporting on the immigratio­n beat meant following dour — but manageable — story lines: legislativ­e efforts at comprehens­ive reform, the occasional high-profile ICE raid, a mom taking sanctuary at a church.

Today’s reporting on immigratio­n requires a sustained focus to understand what is happening on a day-to-day basis, a thorough grasp of this nation’s history of integratin­g people from other countries, and a strong stomach to withstand the unending torrent of horrors that migrants are being subjected to by our government.

If news stories were to be comprehens­ive, they wouldn’t be reports but instead long lists capturing the injustices and atrocities going on in our communitie­s. Here’s a short one, just covering developmen­ts in the last three days of July:

— Republican senators blocked a House bill that would’ve granted Venezuelan­s Temporary Protected Status — which prevents immigrants’ removal from the United States and allows them to obtain employment and travel authorizat­ion. The legislator­s did this despite the fact that Venezuela’s economy has collapsed and it has been described by some scholars as a “Mafia state” due to the government’s alleged involvemen­t in the drug trade and other criminal enterprise­s.

— The Trump administra­tion tried to subvert U.S. Citizenshi­p and Immigratio­n Services — the supposedly welcoming arm of the federal-immigratio­n apparatus — by training border agents to conduct the “credible fear” interviews that allow migrants who fear for their safety to have a shot at finding refuge in this country. NBC News reports that Stephen Miller, President Trump’s immigratio­n whisperer, is undertakin­g this effort — among other tactics, like “metering” the number of people who are interviewe­d daily — to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country.

— The Associated Press reported that the Trump administra­tion is threatenin­g fines — of up to $500,000 in some cases — to immigrants taking sanctuary at churches and other houses of worship in order to curb the practice.

— The ACLU estimated that more than 900 children, including “numerous” babies and toddlers, have been separated from their parents or caregivers since the administra­tion said it would end the controvers­ial — and, according to numerous experts, ineffectiv­e — practice of attempting to deter families from migrating by breaking up families.

There is so much more going on with the Trump administra­tion — such as arbitrary rule changes and the continuing mistreatme­nt of migrants at border detention facilities — and it’s all working toward the end goal of limiting the number of “worthy” outsiders who are deigned to be good enough to come into our country.

And what’s so frustratin­g is that, by all accounts, the deterrence strategy that is harming so many people does not work.

For example, when the U.S. Border Patrol stepped up its practice of destroying water placed in the desert to aid border crossers, researcher­s predicted that the uptick in deaths would not prevent people from making the treacherou­s trip. And they were right.

Typically, I end immigratio­n columns with a call to action to please donate to a nonprofit organizati­on doing the work of helping immigrants caught in the crosshairs of the immigratio­n enforcemen­t system. Or I encourage the very effective practice of calling your elected representa­tives to tell them not to participat­e in making America more hostile to immigrants.

But even my steely determinat­ion occasional­ly flags after a year of the dehumaniza­tion of men, women and children at the border.

Cruelty is this administra­tion’s strategy, and it works on outside observers as well as it does on migrants. So, for now, all I ask is that you please not turn away. Stay engaged with the immigratio­n crisis — keep yourself informed. America’s status as a haven for those with no other options requires your sustained attention.

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