Thursday, December 8, 2016

Will Trump's policies towards immigrants differ much from Obama's?

Trump incited crowds by talking tough, and irresponsibly, about immigrants. He said they were pouring into the country and Obama had done little or nothing to stop them. He claimed they were mostly criminals causing a crime wave of stupendous proportions and were jeopardizing American jobs, He said we need a huge wall to protect us from rapists and criminals crossing our borders. 

Almost everything Trump said is factually untrue. Obama deported more undocumented immigrants than any President in history, and most them had criminal records. Immigration went down during the Obama years. And the only flood of immigrants crossing the borders were not rapists, but children and mothers fleeing violence in Central America.

This chart shows how unauthorized immigration went down, not up, during the Obama years. Unauthorized immigration increased by nearly four million during the Bush administration when Republicans controlled Congress as well as the Presidency. Unauthorized immigration declined by over a million during the Obama years. 

For more facts about immigrants that challenge Trump's fake news, see Pew research on immigration.

When you look at the facts, you see there is really little difference between what Trump called for, and what Obama actually did, when it came to deporting criminals living in this country illegally.

The big difference is that Obama wanted comprehensive immigration reform, and so did most Republicans until they changed their mind and opposed it. See immigration reform. Frustrated by Congressional inaction, Obama took steps to prevent hard-working, studious young people from being deported whose only "crime" was being brought here as children by their foreign-born parents. 

Since there a lot of "fake news" circulating during this campaign, I think it's important that we cite sources that we feel are reliable, and let others know what these sources are. Every reputable source I know states that Obama has deported more undocumented people than any other President--over 2.4 million--and most of them had committed some kind of crime. See Obama's deportation policy.

Obama made it the goal of his administration to deport any undocumented person who commits a crime. According to the government website:  

"ICE has continued to increase its focus on identifying, arresting, and removing convicted criminals in prisons and jails, and also at-large arrests in the interior."  

In fiscal year 2015, 91 percent of people removed from inside the U.S. were previously convicted of a crime. Some of the "crimes" were fairly minor--marijuana offenses, or reentering the US after being deported, which is now considered a felony.  

Trump says that there are 2 million to 3 million immigrants with criminal records in the United States illegally. Trump was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report covering fiscal years 2011-13. That report said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 1.9 million "removable criminal aliens" in the United States at the time -- not 3 million. We don't know how many of those "aliens" were here legally, or how serious their crimes were. Returning to the country after being deported is now a felony, and so is cocaine possession.See report on deportation laws.

Jill and I know from our personal experience that many of those charged with "crimes" were not doing anything worthy of being deported. For example, we know of a Latina  whose undocumented husband got angry with her and started pounding on his car. A neighbor filed a complaint, the police arrived, and he was ultimately sent to detention and deported. Many undocumented people have been deported for such minor offenses, causing their families enormous pain and suffering. Even military vets who risked their lives for their country were deported for minor offenses. See deported vets.

Under Obama, even children crossing the border to escape violence in Latin America were deported, and some were killed when they returned to their homeland.  I suspect Obama did this because of intense political pressure from the right--many of whom supported Trump.

There really is not a huge difference between Trump and Obama about deporting people who are here illegally. Both want to deport criminals and keep America safe,

Where they differ is that Obama wanted to keep in this country undocumented young people who had brought to this country as children, had committed no crime, and wanted to get an education and pursue the American dream of success. These so-called Dreamers were allowed to stay and complete their college education under a program called DACA. Obama also wanted to provide a path to citizens to the nine million or so hard-working undocumented people who are  not a  threat to the US. In fact, they are assets to our country, picking our fruits and vegetables, and cleaning hotels like the ones that Trump owns. 

Trump has said he wants to deport the Dreamers, and perhaps those nine million undocumented workers who don't have a path to citizenship and so are staying here illegally. That's the main difference I see between Trump and Obama when it comes to immigration. 

Will Trump actually deport these young people? In a recent interview, he seems to have softened, just as he scaled back on the proposed wall and his plan to jail Hillary Clinton. Now the ever-changing Donald says: 
 "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," Trump said. "They got brought here at a very young age; they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen." 

According to Jonathan Lemire's article, Trump "offered no details about a policy that would make that clear."
During the campaign, Trump's tough comments - including a vow to overturn President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration - have led to fears among immigrant advocates that he will end Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants have gained work permits and temporary protection from deportation under the 2012 program, which aides to Trump have said would be revisited.
Will Trump follow through on this promise to deport Dreamers, or will he be a nice guy? Who knows? All I can say is that if we feel any compassion for these undocumented young people, and for the 9 million undocumented people living in this country who have committed no crimes and have helped our economy to grow, we need to demand that Congress and President Trump enact meaningful immigration reform, with a path to citizenship.

The reason that so many people are here illegally is that they don't have a way to legalize their status. Our immigration laws are hopelessly out of touch with reality and human needs. 1,5 million Mexicans wanted to enter the US legally last year, but only 26,000 visas were provided. Nine million people are living illegally in the USA and most of them would love to have a way to earn their citizenship, perhaps by paying a fee or doing whatever it takes to show their worthiness to be full citizens in the country where they work and are raising their families. See immigration laws.

In order to be respected, and followed, laws need to be consistent with common sense, and many of our immigration laws are nonsensical. If the federal government enacted laws that said that it is a felony to drive over 30 miles per hour,  tens of millions of Americans would soon be considered criminals. It seems absurd to label undocumented people "illegal" when they would happily follow the law if the law gave them a chance to become legal citizens. 

In order for laws to be respected by people of faith, they also need to be consistent with a higher law, God's commandments. 

According to Leviticus 24: 22, foreigners deserve the same legal protection as the native born (a right also conferred upon foreigners in the 14th Amendment of our Constitution*): 

"You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.'"

In Leviticus 19: 34, God makes it clear how we are to treat foreigners not only fairly but with love: 

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

"Love foreigners as yourself." That's what the Bible repeatedly tells us to do. That's why we people of faith feel it's important for Congress to enact sensible and morally defensible immigration laws, ones that will enable people to have a path to citizenship so they don't have to be here illegally.

*The 14h Amendment states:  "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." By "persons" this Amendment is referring to non-citizens as well as citizens. Every person in the US has the right to due process and equal protection under US law. 

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