The current plan to keep America safe anticipates deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes. It seems like a good plan, doesn’t it? We all want our cities safe. What could possible be objectionable about a plan to protect the United States?
Sometimes, the finest plans do not work out quite as we envisioned. Please allow me to share a few unintended consequences associated with 278(g), which became law in September 1996. This law called upon local, county, and state law enforcement officers to assist ICE with identifying, processing and detaining immigrants. Although the idea sounded reasonable, consider the outcomes listed below:
- Instead of developing trust between police and communities, 287(g) promoted fear and suspicion. Police officers became enemies of the people.
- When communities perceived police as enemies, the lives of officers became endangered.
- Once community members became distrustful, they stopped asking for help. For example, a woman whose husband sexually molested their eight-year-old daughter became too anxious about deportation to ask for help. Had she been deported, the documented father would have stayed and kept the child with him.
- Deporting workers often removed key witnesses. After identifying a human traffic operation in an Arkansas restaurant, ICE deported all busboys, wait persons, and dishwashers. No witnesses remained to testify against the guilty owners who went free.
Although some undocumented immigrants come into the country illegally, most come lawfully but overstay their visas. Please consider the following facts:
- Most immigrants come to find jobs in agriculture, construction, grounds work or maintenance. When Susan Combs served Texas as the Republican Comptroller, she indicated that removal of undocumented workers would decrease the Texas work force by 6.3 percent. Agriculture heavily depends on immigrants.
- Instead of decreasing availability of jobs, immigrants tend to gravitate toward work most Americans do not want.
- Immigrants spend money and they pay taxes.
- As a result of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, a typical immigrant family will pay more in taxes than the family will receive in services. “Unauthorized immigrants account for less than 5 percent of total state and local spending for services.”
- Although deporting immigrants with serious criminal records obviously increases safety, deporting individuals for minor, non-threatening violations does not keep us safe.
Benjamin Franklin once complained that too many German immigrants wanted residence. Roman Catholics, Poles, Italians, and Jews raised exaggerated fears in a young United States. In spite of early qualms, the U.S. developed as a nation of immigrants. Each group added its own flavor, culture, and influence. With a dose of common sense, we can protect our nation by deporting true criminals, repairing the broken immigration system, and demonstrating the values America places on family. We do not have to become villains to be safe.
Burke, Vee. “The 1996 Welfare Reform Law.” Congressional Research Service. Updated July 1, 2003. http://royce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/the 1996 welfare reform law.pdf
Estrada, Cesar. “How Immigrants Positively Affect the Business Community and the U.S. Economy.” Center for American Progress. June 22, 2015. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2016/06/22/140124/how-immigrants-positively-affect-the-business-community-and-the-u-s-economy/
Griswold, Daniel. “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World.” CATO Institute. February 18, 2002. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/immigrants-have-enriched-american-culture-enhanced-our-influence-world
Goodman, H.A. “Dear Tea Party, Illegal Immigrants Benefit Our Nation. Blocking Reform Hurts Everyone.” The Huffington Post. August 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/dear-tea-party-illegal-im_b_5483058.html
Goodman, H.A. “Illegal Immigrants Benefit the Economy.” The Hill. April 23, 2014. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/203984-illegal-immigrants-benefit-the-us-economy
Gosmano, Michael. “Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Demographics and Socioeconomic Status” The Hastings Center: Undocumented Patients. February 8, 2012. http://undocumentedpatients.org/issuebrief/demographics-and-socioeconomic-status/
“The 287 (g) Program: A Flawed and Obsolete Method of Immigration Enforcement.” American Immigration Council.” November 29, 2012. https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/287g-program-flawed-and-obsolete-method-immigration-enforcement