The ethics of Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests

by Gloria Zhang, Asst. Features Editor

The world turned upside down when a new era of polarization stumbled through not the doors of the White House, not the doors of American citizens, but the doors of the world. When will this back and forth quarrel be over? When will we pause to think of the people?

On Oct. 5, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Senate Bill 54, or California Values Act, proclaiming California as a sanctuary state, preventing local and state agencies to release information on criminals or suspects to federal officers unless they have committed a serious crime.

On Feb. 24, 2018, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf warned of a large-scale U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation on undocumented immigrants. ICE operations consists of detaining any individual who break U.S. immigration laws. They prioritize people who pose national security threats and who re-enter illegally after deportation. A day later, her warning proved true as hundreds of people were detained by ICE agents. ICE director Thomas Homan declared that she jeopardized their agents’ safety, comparing the arrests to gang operations.

ICE states that they arrested 20,201 people in California in 2017, with 81% carrying a criminal record. Therein lies the question: was mayor Schaaf justified in her actions? Did the warning prevent criminal arrests and endanger public safety?

Aside from a rollercoaster ride, full of bumps and sharp-turns, involving politicians and ICE agents, it is important to remember the undocumented immigrants themselves. They are families who have come to America to search for better opportunities for their children, escape life-threatening dangers in their home countries, or both. They are the brave who have entered a foreign society full of strangers and unfamiliarity.

It’s easy to think about the safety of our community, our friends, our family. As humans, we of course strive to eliminate the risk of harm to our loved ones. After all, our families support us in our ups and downs. The arrests of the convicted 81% of undocumented immigrants may decrease the risk of danger. But what about all the other immigrants? What about their own safety?

On Mar. 6, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California, Governor Jerry Brown, and California’s Attorney General Xavier Barrera over three laws that limit federal immigration agencies in acquiring information of undocumented immigrants.

On Mar. 13, Trump assessed eight prototypes for his U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Diego and criticized Governor Jerry Brown’s governing of California. “You have ‘sanctuary cities’ where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities,” he said.

Certain undocumented immigrants fled their country due to violence, natural disasters, economic or political instability, or diseases. By deporting the individuals, there is the chance of their facing their former difficulties again.

It’s time to show empathy to the young and old who are living with the anxiety of unexpected deportation and the fear of threats to their lives at home; neither America nor their home countries foster an atmosphere of stability. Most of us have never and likely will never experience the hardships of the undocumented immigrants. It’s time to lend not only a voice, but a heart to them. To the 19% of non-criminal immigrants and to the number of non-national-security-threatening individuals, ICE agents should consider the factors of their safety before hasty detention or deportation. And for us, as a community, we need to provide as much stability and sympathy for them as we can. It’s time for them, and not for us. It’s time to be selfless.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on March 29, 2018.