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SINGH: Cut back on aggressive treatment of immigrants is necessary

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On Thursday Feb. 22, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services changed its mission statement to embody America’s new agenda. The federal agency in charge of handling immigration in the U.S. has removed the phrase that indicated America was a “nation of immigrants.” The new statement now reads, "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation's lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland and honoring our values."

The purpose of the newly edited statement is to reflect the guiding beliefs of the new director of the agency, L. Francis Cissna, who was personally hand picked by President Donald J. Trump. According to a statement made by Cissna’s spokesperson to HuffPost, Cissna wants to focus on "fairness, lawfulness and efficiency ..." Although Cissna made no direct comment on the removal of the phrase in the new statement, it is believed that this may have something to do with the president’s State of the Union address in January when he called Americans to unite over the “issue” of immigration. The way Trump worded his address painted the immigration struggle as an “us vs. them” fight. Them, referring to the immigrants he has so often defamed through calling them violent gang members and terrorists, among other things. And us, referring to the native-born citizens of this country. In his address he proceeded to say, “For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities,” Trump said. “They've allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.” Along with generalizing Hispanic immigrants, Trump proposed making substantial cuts to legal immigration, following along the same ideology he had earlier when he proposed terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that protected approximately 800,000 undocumented young immigrants. His administration also terminated the temporary  protective status (TPS) that served thousands of Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants and protected them from deportation after illegally entering the country due to famine, natural disasters, civil wars, etc. Approximately 200,000 Salvadorans had been given permission to live in the U.S. under the TPS program due to the two catastrophic earthquakes in 2001 that struck El Salvador, leaving hundreds and thousands homeless. Approximately 59,000 were similarly protected under this program when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. The constant persistence to eradicate these immigrants suggests that Trump is racially motivated to deport immigrants, especially those that are Black or Latinx. 

We need to recognize the repercussions that illegal immigrant families face due to deportation. Many times families are not deported as a unit, but rather the parent or guardian is the one stripped away and sent back. Because immigrant deportation policies have become harsher in the past year alone, many families find themselves living in constant fear of separation, children are stripped away from their parents and families lose financial support. A study done in 2012 by the Center for American Progress discerned that a majority of the immigrants deported are males, leaving single mothers to raise their children on their small incomes. Many immigrants have been brought up in the U.S. and have a hard time adjusting to the country they are deported to. This is especially true about those that have entered the U.S. illegally with their children when they were very young. They may be from a different country, but how would they adjust to such a drastic life change when all they knew was the U.S. They were too young to have a say in the immigration and too young to learn their native culture, so what they ended up growing with was the American culture. The American culture is then stripped from them once they are deported. How are they expected to succeed in a foreign society when everything they have worked for is taken away from them? How are they supposed to care for themselves and their family members when their surroundings and associated processes are so alien? In order to maintain family unity, there needs to be a bill that allows for immigration reform and gives immigrants the ability to obtain legal status. There also should be some amount of restoration of judicial discretion that would enable immigrant judges to determine if the convicted immigrants truly deserve to be deported. All in all, there needs to be a cut back on the aggressive law enforcement targeting and incarcerating the hundreds of thousands of people of color before too many families are destroyed.

Harleen Singh is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. Her column, "Got Rights?", runs on alternate Tuesdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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