Muftic: Remembering the human side of immigration issues
In the heated partisan debate over DACA and/or comprehensive immigration reform and President Donald Trump’s controversial racist policies and comments about immigrants, it is easy to ignore the impact on the lives and emotions of the young; 800,000 Dreamers’ lives are on the line. Those children brought to the United States illegally, but with no criminal intent themselves to break the law , are victims of an immigration system that needs serious reform.
The president apparently still is insisting Congress approve the Great Wall of Trump on the border with Mexico as a condition of providing any solution to the Dreamers’ jeopardy. The Democrats now prefer the “clean bill” approach not tied to approval of another issue, but have indicated they could compromise. In the meantime, a lower court Federal judge granted a temporary halt to the Trump administration’s policy to scrap the protection of Dreamers.
In the meantime, let us not forget the traumatic impact of our treatment on undocumented children. Rick D. Bailey, a Denver attorney, posted the following on his Facebook page Jan. 4, and with his permission, his moving account serves as a reminder that we for the sake of politics are doing damage to young lives.
“Today I accompanied a teenage boy and his father to Immigration Court. I accompanied not as an attorney, but rather as a friend through the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC & Coloradans For Immigrant Rights) which provides, among many services, emotional support and presence to immigrants under extreme stress. All of the children scheduled for their initial hearings were first taken into a separate room (with the adults accompanying them) and advised of their rights by some very diligent attorneys from a wonderful local non-profit called Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network – RMIAN. (I don’t know whether there are similar organizations for other Immigration Courts.) None of the children were represented by attorneys today, but there was a certain semblance of process given to them in that they were granted time to get an attorney (at their own expense). Many of these children will have good and valid arguments for visas and defenses against removal if they can get attorneys. Each of the children was required to come up to the defense table and be advised by the judge of her or his rights and answer questions. There was an interpreter and they had to wear headsets, as if it were Nuremberg. As I have reflected back on the day, I have become more and more angry. Why are we subjecting children to this? Although the judge was very kind, the sight of a five-year-old girl and a seven-year-old girl sitting at counsel table (without counsel) in a courtroom being asked questions by a judge was deeply disturbing. Even some of the children 14 or 17 were uncertain and I suspect it was deeply traumatic for all of them. After all, they are being charged with crimes and threatened with deportation. Is this what we want our country to be? Is this hammer of terror and trauma cloaked in a velvet glove of process what we are about as a nation of immigrants? Are these children criminals because they are undocumented? For more information on our treatment of undocumented children, read ‘Tell Me How it Ends — An Essay in Forty Questions’ by Valeria Luiselli.”
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