If there is only one thing that has become glaringly apparent over the past decade about America is that compassion appears to be on the wane. Of course, the primary driver of dispassionate America is the perpetual fear and anger mongering emanating from the religious right and all iterations of the conservative movement; particularly Republicans. Despite their valued and irreplaceable contribution to building and sustaining the American way of life, as of late immigrants have taken the brunt of conservative brutality and barbarism.
On Thursday, three House Democrats took action to address Americans dispassionate treatment of immigrants and introduced a much-needed resolution to reduce the number of immigrants being thrown out of America. The House measure, Fix96 Resolution is the brainchild of Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Judy Chu (D-CA) and it is supported by more than 80 immigrant advocacy organizations. The resolution amends federal immigration policies that have resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of immigrants being apprehended, detained, imprisoned and then sent to their home countries. La Opinion reported that the three Democrats’ goal is to “set the tone and lay the foundations” to start a national dialogue regarding immigration reform. Obviously, the Republican controlled House will quickly ‘shoot down’ the resolution, but it may be covered by the media and bring the nation’s awareness to the lack of compassion America exudes towards immigrants.
If Republicans had an ounce of compassion for immigrants and their families they would support the resolution. But they will not simply it would repeal two severely harsh immigration laws that drastically expanded what kind of offenses were considered “aggravated felonies.” Aggravated felonies are a category of criminal convictions that carry some of the harshest consequences possible such as mandatory detention, deportation, and being permanently banned from ever re-entering the United States.
Of course Republicans will never support the Democrats’ resolution because doing so would eliminate the ease the government enjoys to summarily arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of immigrants for committing minor crimes. Crimes such as possessing small amounts of cannabis, shoplifting, and writing a check on insufficient funds are now defined as “aggravated felonies.” As the law currently works, an immigrant who commits any of those types of low-level crimes are arrested, sent to prison, and upon release immediately turned over to federal immigration custody for deportation proceedings; without any due process rights.
The two laws the Democrats are hoping to repeal also expanded the program allowing local law enforcement officials to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement. It may have started out as a well-intended effort, but it helped spawn the several Republican state laws that gave local law enforcement the idea that they controlled immigration. The laws also mandated detention for minor infractions and eliminated the idea of judicial review to prohibit immigration judges from intervening when the punishment far outweighed the crime.
One of the resolution’s co-sponsors, Representative Keith Ellison said,
“Millions of immigrants — mothers, fathers, and even children — have had their basic human rights stripped by laws that criminalize people who are trying to better their lives. America is the place that welcomes immigrants with ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’. We should not be in the business of separating families or detaining people for years for minor offenses.”
Representative Grijalva, also a co-sponsor said in a statement that,
“Two of the most egregious contributing factors to the criminalization of immigrants are laws that have been on the books for two decades now. The expansion of the term ‘aggravated felony’ has led to excessive detention and deportation for scores of immigrants. These unjust laws have splintered families and denied the right for judges to intervene through judicial review. Twenty years is far too long to cling to such broken and morally bankrupt policies.”
To put a spotlight on just how morally bankrupt these laws are and why Republicans love them, between “2007 and 2012, nearly 266,000 deported immigrants’ most serious conviction was related to small quantities of drugs,” according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. In fact, of the quarter of a million people deported for “committing aggravated felonies,” over a quarter were detained, ripped apart from their families, imprisoned, and deported for “possession or use of a drug.” The HRW report noted that “many had committed offenses that fall short of what most people would consider drug trafficking;” smoking a joint is not what most people would consider drug trafficking, but according to the current laws that is the case for immigrants.
Although the Democrats’ resolution repealing obscene laws contrived to target immigrants is praiseworthy, it is dead in the water in a Republican-controlled House in a country where demonizing immigrants is Republicans’ favorite sport and a highly-popular political position among the GOP’s racist base. If any American doesn’t believe a fairly large number of their fellow citizens are completely without compassion for other human beings, they have not listened to Donald Trump, Republicans in Congress and state legislatures, or the angry white racists seeking Aryan purity in America.
It is true that, like the three Democratic co-sponsors of the Fix96 Resolution believe, America needs to have a serious conversation about seriously comprehensive immigration reform. However, what it needs first is a conversation about the woeful lack of compassion in what conservatives claim is a god-fearing Christian nation.