Friday, March 31, 2017
Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country's immigration laws… Enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair… They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary's ability to provide equal access to justice. Excerpts from a March 16th letter from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye to U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, & Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelley
In the immigration dispute, California is different. Especially Southern California. Especially Los Angeles. 35% of our economy is dependent on our relationship with our vast Hispanic community, with a large component from Mexico and a very significant population from points south. From food choices to street names to local jargon to the names of our friends and fellow workers. Our architecture shines with red-tiled rooves and “Spanish” (read: Mexican) arches, finishes and style. Our roots are Mexican and Spanish, the greatest cultural influences around us. Trump’s wall, his ICE clampdown here (more later) is seen by us as a war declared against a state that is vehemently anti-Trump. Nowhere else in the United States is experiencing this level of federal intrusion into our daily lives.
Go to Florida, where the vast majority of Latinos have their roots in Cuba, and listen to the self-righteous anti-immigration rants from too many conservative political figures in a state with a Republican-majority legislature, a Republican governor, a state that voted for Donald Trump. Marco Rubio, reelected to the U.S. Senate, is in the United States because of a strange ultra-conservative law that granted special immigration status to Cubans who made it to American landfall. Had the laws he seeks to enforce against undocumented Hispanics in California be applied to his father, we would today be spared from his anti-immigrant posturing. Hypocrite! And yes, there are Floridians who are equally disgusted.
For those who argue that the special immigration status accorded escaping Cubans was by reason of the brutal and repressive Castro regime, I suspect that they must be reading-impaired. There was no requirement whatsoever that those making the trip were actually victimized by the Castro regime, however. On the other hand, the brutality of the south-of-the-border civil wars, mercilessly cruel dictators, death squads, horrific drug cartels (catering primarily to demand for narcotics from the United States, which has kindly been the illegal source of most of the guns used to kill down there) and bitterly hopeless poverty that exceeds the numbers of human rights violations in Cuba by a vast multiple. We should treat Hispanics from south of the border with the same dignity and respect we have accorded to fleeing Cubans for decades. But we don’t.
How bad is it here, you ask? As I drive through Hispanic communities here in Los Angeles, I feel the fear. The little Mexican restaurants don’t carry the laughter I used to hear. They listen to the news stories of ICE agents waiting outside their Catholic churches, rounding up parishioners after a service or arresting parents dropping of their (U.S. citizen) children at school, or taking pictures of protectors or about innocent “Dreamers” detained by zealous ICE agents… or, as our California Supreme Court Justice Cantil-Sakauye so aptly points out in the above letter, how many Hispanic witnesses and litigants are so terrified of entering a courthouse (where ICE agents are waiting to arrest them) that they simply do not appear. Justice is not relevant to these ill-directed ICE agents, who simply tell the authorities that they are taking their orders from Washington.
Our police and sheriffs complain that the Hispanic communities are cooperating with them less than ever in the pursuit of really dangerous criminals. People are terrified of anything governmental, stepping back into the shadows, hoping not to be seen or heard. And the last thing locals in those neighborhoods want to do is to complain about anything – from larceny to sex trafficking to murder – to the police. Criminals are acutely aware of this fear and are capitalizing on it with increasing frequency.
No one wants to protect violent criminals. Arrest them. Deport them, and we all cheer. But, even as we do get those nasties out of our cities, that’s not the only thing that is actually happening. Non-violent innocents are being detained and deported too. Parents ripped from their children.
“The talk of immigration sweeps, she said, has further frayed already worn nerves among immigrants. A [young lady] living in the country illegally asked [a friend] and her husband to sign a letter stating that if she is deported, they would take custody of her 2-year-old daughter. ‘That’s horrible, to even have to consider that,’ she said.” Los Angeles Times, February 11th. Lawyers in those neighborhoods are flooded with requests to draft powers of attorney to persons with young American-born children (citizens) to friends to look after their kids should they be swept away. Think about that!
That so many of the most vocal anti-immigrant voice are coming from purported Christians stuns me. That they missed the plain reading of both Old and New Testament scripture (see, for example, quotes from my March 16th Sanctuary II blog) about tolerance, kindness to the less advantaged, forgiveness and brotherly love makes me question their commitment to their professed faith. These is a different path. We can have solid borders, but we cannot accept an immigration policy based on hate, fear, disturbing sloganeering, angry and unjustified populism and incredibly incorrect assumptions about immigrants. We need to reintroduce humanity and human rights into our immigration policies.
I’m Peter Dekom, and these hateful and ill-conceived immigration crackdowns are definitely not my America.