In the course of one week, 678 people in 12 states were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as part of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Immigration enforcement is not a new policy by any means. In fact, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama earned the nickname “Deporter in Chief” because of the record 2.5 million deportations which occurred during his tenure.
However, the ambiguity surrounding the circumstances of these arrests, and the lack of specificity regarding who exactly is being arrested, is concerning. While Trump is insisting that it is only criminals who are being seized, his definition of what qualifies someone as a criminal is disturbingly broad.
According to an executive order authorized by the president, a person does not have to be convicted of a crime to be considered a criminal. A criminal, by this definition, is simply anyone who has been charged with a crime, committed acts that authorities consider as breaking the law, performed any kind of fraud or misrepresentation on any official document or matter or anyone an immigration officer considers to be a risk to either public safety or national security.
Evidently, some of this criteria is open to subjective interpretation. Especially when most illegal immigrants are guilty of committing some level of fraud in order to acquire fake Social Security numbers in order to find jobs, ICE officers are welcome to arrest people who they presume to be dangerous but could merely be seeking better lives. Furthermore, ICE has adopted a new routine of using their targeted sweeps to find other undocumented immigrants by checking who their “suspect” is affiliated with.
Granted, being in the country illegally is a crime in itself but the issue is not Trump keeping to his campaign promises and siccing ICE officials on undocumented immigrants — after all, it could be said that Obama did the same thing during his time as president. Rather, it is the indiscriminate and callous manner by which he is doing so. Instead of using official criminal records to find who should be deported, Trump is allowing ICE officials to deport based on association and personal judgment. This is a stark contrast to Obama’s deportation practices, where he had exact and specifically worded guidelines about who should and should not be deported. Specifically, his top priority were individuals who had actually been convicted of a crime, and not families working and residing in the U.S. peacefully.
Now, people who have no criminal histories are living in fear about the possibility of ICE knocking at their door. The lack of transparency regarding these so-called “ICE raids” induces terror in families quietly residing in the United States. Furthermore, if families are getting torn apart, it illustrates a lack of compassion and respect for them as human beings. Deportation is by no means a pleasant process, so there should be no reason to make it more terrifying than it already is, especially for people who are often fleeing their countries of origin to seek refuge.
In order to ameliorate this atmosphere of fear and anxiety, ICE officers must be placed under more supervision. As a result of the president’s executive order, they have too much power over whom they are arresting. These decisions are tainted with a great deal of subjectivity and personal biases, which is unpredictable and thus unfair for the people and families it threatens to displace.
Furthermore, it is now of utmost importance to educate illegal immigrants about the proper avenues they should take in order to become legal, documented citizens. Admittedly, it is an extensive and painful process, but it is the ultimate solution to a life of hiding. In the meantime, they should also be informed about how to conduct themselves during an ICE raid. Despite their status, undocumented immigrants still have rights. They should know that they are protected against warrantless search and seizures, and that ICE has certain protocols that must be followed before making an arrest.
Also as regular citizens, we have a responsibility to disseminate such vital information. Being aware and educated is a powerful weapon against tyranny. True, residing in a country illegally is breaking the law and should not be promoted. However, that does not mean we should harshly and unfairly apprehend those who are contributing to American society and living here peacefully. While it is important to uphold the law, it is also important to be compassionate and understanding human beings.