With the recent Homeland Security memos broadening deportation priorities to include being charged with a crime– even a minor infraction, even without being convicted of a crime, and even without due process– it is up to the individual ICE agent to use his or her judgment as to whether to arrest (hello again, racial profiling) and immediately deport a person who may pose some undefined threat to our supposedly embattled country. That person may leave for work in the morning and never come home again. The widespread fear and anxiety among individuals and families over these developments are probably worse than after Trump’s first executive order on immigration.
And he wants to hire 15,000 new agents to carry out his orders: is this what he meant by job creation? Maybe issue them brown-shirt uniforms, to create more jobs in the garment industry?
Of course we haven’t yet reached the red line, the Anne Frank level, but the one word that comes to mind is Sanctuary. Cities like San Francisco and New York have declared themselves sanctuary cities, refusing- at the risk of losing federal funds- to allow their police departments to help ICE round up undocumented immigrants. The stated goal is to maintain a fragile trust relationship with the immigrant community, which makes sense: but what about really providing sanctuary, when the raids begin, when ICE agents swarm into factories, farms, restaurants, hotels and construction sites? How to confront these agents in a nonviolent manner? How to avoid sheltering real criminals, along with the innocent?
At the very least, discussions should begin in earnest; there are logistical problems and serious risks involved. Who can provide physical shelter: churches and synagogues (regrettably, mosques may want to remain circumspect here)? Universities? Community centers? When I was a rheumatology fellow at the University of Southern California, most of our patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma were Hispanic, and no-one paid any attention at all to their immigration status. Should hospitals provide care as a form of sanctuary, perhaps funded by philanthropies? Can irreversible damage be held off until, one day, the pendulum swings back and there is finally a reckoning?
We should get involved. March in protest. Write congressmen or newspapers. Express outrage at the lack of compassion, the decline in our society. But we should also think about providing sanctuary for vulnerable people, with real faces, facing real fear of deportation.