Staff Editorial

Communities in crisis: Congress's inaction on immigration is unacceptable

Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for male children in Brownsville, Texas, are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018.    (ACF/HHS via REUTERS)
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for male children in Brownsville, Texas, are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. (ACF/HHS via REUTERS)

Iowans have been hammered in recent weeks by the very real impacts of President Donald Trump’s crackdown against illegal immigration.

Last month, 32 workers were arrested at a concrete products facility in Mount Pleasant. In the days following the raid, families and community members scrambled to determine the whereabouts of their husbands, fathers and friends. People suspected of civil immigration violations can be held for 30 days or more without charges being brought, leaving immigrant families in a terrifying legal limbo.

More than six weeks later, several of those men remain in government custody, and those who have bonded out still face additional legal proceedings. The social and emotional toll of such raids is enormous, but so too is the economic cost. Immigrants make up integral parts of our state’s culture and our workforce.

If you have to perpetrate inhumanity to achieve your policy goals, then your goals are not worth achieving.

“It comes as a total shock. This is a peaceful community. People were working and out of the blue there were flashing lights and helicopters,” Iowa Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mt. Pleasant, said during a church gathering in the raid’s aftermath, according to Mt. Pleasant News.

Then a week ago, we learned an Iowa teenager was murdered in Mexico after being voluntarily removed after a run-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco was escorted to Mexico under the Trump administration’s removal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, as first reported by the Des Moines Register.

Pacheco had lived in the United States since age 3, and was previously exempt from deportation with the Obama era DACA rules in place. A traffic stop and driving under the influence charge earlier this year could have been a youthful indiscretion for other young Iowans, but it ultimately had fatal consequences for Pacheco.

Every violent death here or in crime-ridden regions elsewhere is a grave tragedy, but those tragedies are far more tangible when they involve one of our own, an Iowa high school student who was set to graduate this spring.

Meanwhile we have been faced with a barrage of heartbreaking images children separated from their parents, who are coming to U.S. borders seeking asylum from their uninhabitable home countries. Family separations are now taking place dozens of times each day, according to some reports.

Under the Trump administration’s immigration policies, these and other outrages will only become more common, here in Iowa and across the country. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week the administration is narrowing the criteria for asylum status for those from Central America.

These attacks on immigrants’ human rights represent a clear and present crisis, yet Congress repeatedly has refused to take even modest steps toward correcting these injustices. Legislative leaders haven’t even taken up a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients, which has widespread support from the public, along with many rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties. We join the millions of Americans who are rightfully outraged.

The Trump administration’s stated purpose for the immigration crackdown is to deter others who might consider crossing the border illegally. It’s all about upholding the rule of law, they tell us.

The rationale is flimsy and totally incompatible with American values. If you have to perpetrate inhumanity to achieve your policy goals, then your goals are not worth achieving.

What’s more, there’s conflicting evidence about whether Trump administration’s overbearing policies are achieving their intended goals. Border crossings were reportedly lower during the first year of Trump’s tenure, but figures from this past March showed a major surge, with the number of border apprehensions three times higher than the previous year.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House said last week they are getting closer to a deal which would extend DACA protections and increase resources for border security. We’re hopeful for a solution, but we heard that before.

Iowa’s elected officials must be reminded that our workforce and our moral standing are at risk as politicians debate immigration policy. Iowans demand lasting solutions for our immigrant friends and neighbors.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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