Editor’s Note: Marielena Hincapié is executive director of the National Immigration Law Center Immigrant Justice Fund, which is dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants in the U.S. She supports Hillary Clinton for president. the opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Marielena Hincapie: Trump's proposals depict immigrants as criminals
She says data show immigrants are less likely to commit crime than US natives
Hincapie: Trump would create a virtual police state for the immigrant population
This week Donald Trump painted an ugly picture of our present: In his view, the United States is a mess. Terror lurks around every corner. Those of us who were born elsewhere have been transformed from friends and neighbors who add to this country’s strength to threatening people who should be deported. It’s a wonder any of us gather the strength to leave our houses each day.
From this twisted vision emerges Trump’s policy proposals. They are a reflection of whipped-up fear and are not based in fact.
These proposals should send chills down the spine of anyone who believes in freedom and community strength. Trump claims he will unleash a “deportation task force,” tripling the number of immigration officers dedicated to deportation.
He would increase Customs and Border Protection rolls by an additional 5,000 officers, despite the fact that the agency has already doubled in size since 2004.
He would force local police to become de facto immigration agents, despite ample evidence that such measures would further fray ties between communities of color and law enforcement.
In fact, Trump’s vision for the future is a virtual police state, where immigrants (or those who “look” or “sound” like immigrants) must live in fear of having “papers” demanded of them at any moment. Children of aspiring Americans living without work authorization would spend each day in terror, wondering whether their father or mother will be there at the end of the school day.
Trump asserts these measures are necessary to rid our country of the scourge of immigrants living here without authorization.
Again, he has his facts wrong.
So let’s review some of the facts.
As Bianca Bersani, director of the criminal justice program at the University of Massachusetts, noted in an analysis in Justice Quarterly, “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course.”
Immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than those born in the United States.
And, when immigrant-inclusive measures are adopted, everybody thrives.
But these facts get in the way of Trump’s vision, which paints Syrian refugees looking to start their lives anew in the United States as a “Trojan Horse,” and describes Mexican immigrants as largely “rapists” or “criminals.”
Using racially charged rhetoric isn’t a new move. In fact, politicians in our country have long criminalized black and brown people, employing “dog whistle” racism to drive wedges between our communities
The GOP candidate continues to lavish praise on Eisenhower’s deportation policies, but never by name. That’s intentional: The name of Eisenhower’s deportation campaign was Operation Wetback, and it terrorized those in Latino communities, regardless of country of birth. This resulted in even U.S. citizens of Mexican descent being deported, simply because they were perceived to be Mexican immigrants.
Trump’s own prescription, if enacted, would turn back the clock on hard-fought civil and human rights. Many of the “solutions” he proposes are simply unconstitutional.
Another fact he fails to mention is that our country already spends more money on deporting immigrants – and ripping families apart – than it does on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute.
Trump campaign: 11 outrageous quotes
His mass deportation proposals would cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars more than we already spend, and the disruption to our communities and economy would be devastating.
Nearly everyone agrees that the immigration system is dysfunctional. In fact, many agree that aspiring Americans should be allowed to get on a road to citizenship. Yet you wouldn’t know it by listening to Trump.
His wildly outlandish claims, which have no bearing on the truth or sound public policy, are a stark example of what is at stake this November. Our country is at the precipice of one of the most consequential presidential elections in modern history.
The American people must look past the rhetoric on both sides of this crucial debate and instead consider what is best for our families, for our economy, and for our future.
Do we want fear-based policies that drive our communities apart, or should we choose an inclusive society that sees our diversity as our strength? The choice will be ours to make on November 8 – and the whole world is watching.