Editorials

EDITORIAL

The undocumented: They’re all targets now

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos is locked in a van that is stopped in the street by protesters outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Phoenix. Advocacy groups said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are rounding up people in large numbers around the country as part of stepped-up enforcement under President Donald Trump. The government said it's simply enforcing the laws and taking dangerous immigrants off the streets. On Wednesday, de Rayos showed up at the ICE building in Phoenix for a scheduled check-in with immigration officers and was swiftly deported to Mexico. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, File)

AP FILE PHOTO

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was locked in a van that was stopped in the street by protesters outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Phoenix.

This is Donald Trump’s America:

Last week, a domestic violence victim went to a courthouse in El Paso County, Texas, to seek a protective order against her alleged abuser.

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When she got there, though, she was apprehended by federal immigration officials, who were acting on a tip, presumably from her abuser.

“I cannot recall an instance where ICE agents have gone into the domestic violence court, specifically looking for a victim of domestic violence,” a shocked prosecutor told the local media. Now that immigrant women know immigration officials might be lurking at the courthouse, authorities fear that domestic violence victims will avoid police. It’s not hyperbole to conclude that women might die as a result.

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To the what-part-of-illegal-don’t-you-understand crowd — the hard-liners who now include the president of the United States — the consequences of such indiscriminate immigration enforcement are irrelevant. After all, the domestic abuse victim, a Mexican national known only by her initials, I.E.G., was in the United States illegally.

And that’s all that seems to matter now. Judging by Trump’s executive orders and words, and ICE’s actions, it’s clear that immigration authorities have abandoned the concept that some illegal immigrants should be higher-priority cases for deportation than others. Take the case of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a 35-year-old illegal immigrant and mother of two who had lived in Arizona since her teens and had been dutifully checking in with authorities. She was also deported last week amid the administration’s new crackdown.

Throwing illegal immigrants out of the country however and wherever authorities find them might seem like Trump fulfilling a campaign promise. But as with so many of his other policies, the result of the deportation binge may well be the opposite of its stated purpose.

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By lumping all 11 million illegal immigrants together, and making them all vulnerable to deportation, the administration isn’t making America safer, or its economy healthier. First, the kitchen-sink strategy wastes federal resources. Every hour that ICE officials spend deporting Garcia de Rayos or arresting the El Paso domestic violence victim is time they could have spent focusing on finding and deporting the small number of violent criminals in the immigrant community.

The arbitrary deportations will also make immigrants afraid of talking to police, going to court, or interacting with the wider community. And all US residents — citizens and noncitizens, legal and illegal residents — will be less safe as a result. If you were hit by a drunk driver, and the only witness was an illegal immigrant, would you want him to run away when the police came?

Nor will American workers benefit. Rather than help the nation’s economy and open up more jobs for Americans, the result of deporting workers — or scaring them away from their jobs — will be reduced productivity and higher prices in domestic agriculture and construction, among other sectors.

If last year’s campaign proved anything, it’s that Trump and many of his supporters view illegal immigrants as people who have cheated the system and have no right to expect leniency or sympathy. But that simplistic, gut-level reaction is now pushing immigration policy down a dangerous path.

Trump’s executive orders, along with the actions of ICE, have sent waves of confusion and fear through immigrant communities. Indeed, that seems to be at least part of the administration’s motive, since the government doesn’t actually have the ability to deport 11 million people. The message that all illegal immigrants must watch their backs may satisfy Trump’s urges, but it comes at an enormous cost to public safety for all residents.

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