An undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy is not a threat to U.S. national security. Nonetheless, under President Trump’s immigration guidelines, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were emboldened to detain Rosa María Hernández for 10 days, beginning on Oct. 25, until after her surgery in a Texas hospital. Agents had identified Rosa María as undocumented when she passed through a border security checkpoint on her way to the hospital. Rosa María’s mother did not accompany her to the hospital for fear of being detained herself.
While former President Barack Obama’s directives for deporting unauthorized immigrants placed the highest priority on those who posed security threats, President Trump’s guidelines “no longer...exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” In Houston, Tex., some families with undocumented immigrants live in so much fear of these new guidelines that they declined assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The detainment of Rosa María illustrates a key problem with current U.S. immigration policy: The various guidelines drawn up by different administrations are nonbinding and uncodified. A more humane policy that prioritizes the deportation of undocumented people who have committed crimes should be enacted into law. A ban on ICE activity in spaces like courtrooms, churches, schools, hospitals and ambulances, as well as during crises like natural disasters, should also be formalized.
The detainment of Rosa María illustrates a key problem with current U.S. immigration policy
Trump administration policy seems designed to harass undocumented immigrants indiscriminately, perhaps with the expectation that they will retreat to their countries of origin.
But one cannot scare people out of the United States and back to the violence that now besets so many Central American countries. Rather than address the root causes of the U.S. immigration crisis, an enforcement-only approach simply tortures our brothers and sisters who have come to the United States seeking a better life. Far from decreasing crime, overzealous enforcement can worsen it. Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department has commented that this culture of fear is dangerous for everyone living in the United States.
“When you create a shadow population...that fears any interaction [with law enforcement]...you create a whole population of victims,” Mr. Beck said, “because they become prey for human predators who extort them or abuse them because they know they won’t contact the police.”
U.S. immigration enforcement policy must be merciful, seeking to protect the entire human family that lives within our borders. Detaining and threatening deportation for Rosa Maria does nothing to make our nation more secure.