Last week I wrote about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that are removing around five people a month from Jackson Hole. That is being driven by a small minority of anti-immigration extremists who have prevented passage of immigration reforms favored by supermajorities of Americans and even supermajorities in Congress.
It is hard to believe that the 2017 executive order that empowers ICE to remove our neighbors is constitutional. It allows removal of anyone charged with but not convicted of a crime. Inconceivably for a democratic nation of laws, the executive order permits ICE agents to remove anyone they believe “might be a threat to public safety.” There is no presumption of innocence and little due process.
When ICE agents show up in Teton County they do it in plain clothes and unmarked vehicles. They have brought illegal “warrants” not signed by judges that have no force of law. Those warrants are a fraud. Immigration lawyers tell us that no one is required to talk with ICE or give it any information.
That is not only unjust enforcement of laws we have willfully ignored for years, it is selective enforcement of laws most Americans don’t want. The only reason these laws still exist is that Congress has failed to implement the will of a vast majority of the American people.
Nothing short of deporting all the undocumented immigrants and their children will satisfy the anti-immigrant fringe. They have not told us how our economy will fill the millions of jobs these people do. Deporting all these people is not the position of the vast majority of Americans, so why are we letting this small group of extremists hold us hostage by shutting down the government? On Dec. 19 the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to keep the government open while it negotiated spending on border security. Hardliners convinced President Trump to reject the deal. Government will not work until we learn to spurn the hardliners from both parties and put an end to government shutdowns.
As Congress considers immigration reform America should put a hold on deportations for all but convicted felons. The last immigration reform bill was passed almost 30 years ago, led by Wyoming’s own Sen. Alan Simpson. Another moderate Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander, from Tennessee, has proposed comprehensive immigration reform as a way to resolve this issue.
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas border country, tells us there is no crisis in his border towns. In fact, illegal crossings are a fraction of what they were a few years ago.
“Building a 30-foot-high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” he said.
Hurd’s congressional district covers over 850 miles of our border with Mexico, by far more than any other district.
Our nation has always been committed to the idea of a statute of limitations. For all but the most serious crimes, prosecutors will not go after you if enough time has passed. So why do we consider a patriotic, hardworking 25-year-old a criminal for having been brought across the border by his or her parents when he or she was 7 years old? A July 2018 poll found that 84 percent support allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they arrived here as a child, have completed high school or military service and have not been convicted of a serious crime.
We can do more in Jackson Hole to be fair to immigrant families, students and workers. Issuing a county identification to people who need it would help law enforcement know who it is dealing with when people cannot get a driver’s license. Repealing a provision excluding noncitizens from eligibility for Hathaway scholarships would enable all students to further their education.
In our Wyoming Legislature is a terribly written bill filed as House Bill 151. It would try to force counties and towns to do almost anything ICE asks, even if the request is questionably legal and as Congress considers reform of outdated immigration law. This is one of many bills in our state Legislature that works to overrule local control.
We could work to make sure that workers are not exploited because of their status and that workers compensation applies to everyone. Alien residents pay into workers compensation, but the state of Wyoming denies their claims based on lack of citizenship. Colorado, Texas and Idaho allow alien residents to be covered by workers compensation. Wyoming should as well.
I respect all the working people who keep our society running every day. They should be treated equally and fairly, no matter where they were born.