July 26, 2019
It is a federal crime to assist, aid or abet an undocumented person illegally crossing the border. The law makes sense when used to thwart “Coyotes,” those who smuggle undocumented migrants across the Mexico-U.S. border. Coyotes charge refugees exorbitant fees to help facilitate the dangerous and illegal crossings.
However, the use of federal law to arrest and prosecute humanitarians who seek to help other human beings in peril as a result of their decision to seek refuge in the U.S. seems callous and un-American.
For instance, Scott Warren, a college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona, left food and water for migrants - no one specific, just hungry, thirsty migrants traversing the Arizona desert.
According to NPR, Warren was arrested in 2017 and faces three felony counts including conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants.
Teresa Todd, a lawyer, is under investigation for pulling her vehicle over in Texas and letting a man and his very ill 18-year-old sister sit in her car while she sought guidance on how she could help the two undocumented migrants.
A sheriff’s deputy pulled up and now Todd faces possible indictment. The sheriff of Presidio County, whose deputy called the Border Patrol, defended the action against Todd. He told NPR that any person with undocumented migrants in their car risks arrest.
Manisha Sinha, recently wrote in the New York Review of Books, “Today, in criminalizing the provision of humanitarian assistance to migrants we have resurrected the fugitive slave laws of antebellum America. Just as abolitionist activists were once targeted, human rights activists have found themselves in the sights of the Trump administration.”
The media is replete with stories of refugees or asylum seekers being detained, housed in deplorable conditions and even families being separated. Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted, or fear they will be persecuted, because of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political group. Refugee status is sought upon leaving a country and asylum is sought upon entering a new country.
The idea of illegal migrants pouring into the country and taking American jobs, committing crime and spreading disease is fantasy.
More than 60% of immigrants in the United States today have lived here for at least 15 years, and the large majority - 76% - of immigrants have lawful status. Of the approximately 43.7 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2016, 20.2 million were naturalized citizens, reported the Pew Foundation.
The idea that the Trump administration is rounding up illegals and sending them back is not consistent with the data. Approximately 295,000 immigrants were deported from the U.S. in fiscal 2017, the lowest number since 2006. Overall, the Obama administration deported about 3 million immigrants between 2009 and 2016, a significantly higher number than the 2 million immigrants deported by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2008, according to Pew.
Instead of deportation the Trump administration insists on discouraging migrants from seeking asylum through dehumanizing tactics such as detaining refugees without bail - keeping thousands in jail indefinitely while they wait for the resolution of their asylum requests.
As the number of refugees at the border continues to grow, the administration is looking for places to detain refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the strife and persecution in their home countries.
The Trump administration’s decision to use Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a refugee internment camp is the best example of the dangerous path the U.S. is heading down. As Sinha pointed out in the New York Review of Books, “Fort Sill symbolizes a bloodline of state-sponsored cruelty throughout American history, first as a reservation for dispossessed Native Americans, then as an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens during World War II” and now as a refugee internment camp.
Philosopher George Santayana, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Whether this president doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, America is repeating some of the most shameful episodes in its history.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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