Last week, the Trump administration had a big announcement to make: Apprehensions at the U.S. border were at historic lows. At the same time, arrests of immigrants in the interior of the country went up, from 110,100 in fiscal year 2016 to 143,500 in fiscal year 2017.
In Arizona, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 6,500 people in 2017, about 1,100 more detentions than in 2016.
It is hard to argue that these results have made us any “safer” — by whatever metric that could be judged — or that Americans are finally getting back all those jobs that immigrants have allegedly “stolen.” What can be said is that the Trump administration continues to instill fear and destabilize entire communities where immigrants are an integral part of day-to-day life.
As a nation, immigration makes us stronger. And while undocumented immigration is a problem, the kind of anti-immigrant policies endorsed by the president are spurred by an ethno-nationalism that should be anathema to modern America.
The indiscriminate deportation of immigrants in the country illegally, and the separation of families that often follows, is only part of the real-world effects of President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Lest we forget, here are some other examples:
At a time when more people are fleeing their homelands because of violence or persecution, the United States has limited the number of refugees it is willing to accept. So far, fewer than 30,000 refugees have resettled in the U.S. this year, compared to 97,000 in 2016.
The president ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected from deportation young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally by their parents. The almost 700,000 DACA recipients have been left in limbo while a dysfunctional Congress considers what to do with them.
The administration has ended Temporary Protected Status — which gives immigrants the right to stay in the U.S. while their countries recover from unstable conditions — for 2,500 Nicaraguans and about 59,000 Haitians. The migrants, many of whom have been in the United States for years and have remade their lives here, have until January 2019 to leave. But the situations in Central America and Haiti have, if anything, gotten worse. The fate of hundreds of thousands of Hondurans and Salvadorans also protected under TPS remains uncertain.
There is no excuse for the refusal to resettle refugees, who go through an intense, years-long vetting process before being allowed into the country.
Both DACA and TPS were intended to be temporary, but that limitation was put in place with the belief that there would be a solution to the problem that prompted their creation. Eliminating DACA and kicking people off TPS is not the answer. And until the root cause of migration and the need for an immigrant workforce in the U.S. ceases to exist, targeting communities and deporting people is not the answer, either.
We must stop politicizing immigration and consider America’s values and interests in coming up with real solutions, just as we must press our representatives to take action and push back against the anti-immigrant positions of the Trump administration.
Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain are both in a position to remember their moderate, often practical positions on immigration, and, as the senators of a border state, speak common sense to power.