A decade ago, reporting on the immigration beat meant following dour — but manageable — story lines: legislative efforts at comprehensive reform, the occasional high-profile ICE raid, a mom taking sanctuary at a church.
Today's reporting on immigration requires a sustained focus to understand what is happening on a day-to-day basis, a thorough grasp of this nation's history of integrating people from other countries, and a strong stomach to withstand the unending torrent of horrors that migrants are being subjected to by our government.
If news stories were to be comprehensive, they wouldn't be reports but instead long lists capturing the injustices and atrocities going on in our communities. Here's a short one, just covering developments in the last three days of July:
• Republican senators blocked a House bill that would've granted Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status — which prevents immigrants' removal from the United States and allows them to obtain employment and travel authorization. The legislators did this despite the fact that Venezuela's economy has collapsed and it has been described by some scholars as a "Mafia state" due to the government's alleged involvement in the drug trade and other criminal enterprises.
• The Trump administration tried to subvert U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — the supposedly welcoming arm of the federal-immigration apparatus — by training border agents to conduct the "credible fear" interviews that allow migrants who fear for their safety to have a shot at finding refuge in this country. NBC News reports that Stephen Miller, President Trump's immigration whisperer, is undertaking this effort — among other tactics, like "metering" the number of people who are interviewed daily — to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country.
• The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration is threatening fines — of up to $500,000 in some cases — to immigrants taking sanctuary at churches and other houses of worship in order to curb the practice.
• The ACLU estimated that more than 900 children, including "numerous" babies and toddlers, have been separated from their parents or caregivers since the administration said it would end the controversial — and, according to numerous experts, ineffective — practice of attempting to deter families from migrating by breaking up families.
There is so much more going on with the Trump administration — such as arbitrary rule changes and the continuing mistreatment of migrants at border detention facilities — and it's all working toward the end goal of limiting the number of "worthy" outsiders who are deigned to be good enough to come into our country.
You have free articles remaining.
"These actions by the Trump administration are changing what America means and the humanitarian values it represents," said Jennifer Quigley, the director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First, during a telephonic press briefing. "They're simply trying to put through as many measures as possible to limit migration through cruelty, making this country no longer a safe haven."
And what's so frustrating is that, by all accounts, the deterrence strategy that is harming so many people does not work.
For example, when the U.S. Border Patrol stepped up its practice of destroying water placed in the desert to aid border crossers, researchers predicted that the uptick in deaths would not prevent people from making the treacherous trip. And they were right.
Policymakers are just starting to do the work of determining whether the cruelties at the border have any limiting effect on desperate migrants fleeing violence and privation at home, but they — and anyone else who is paying even marginal attention — are finding that rational people will take whatever chances they might have to simply survive.
Typically, I end immigration columns with a call to action to please donate to a nonprofit organization doing the work of helping immigrants caught in the crosshairs of the immigration enforcement system. Or I encourage the very effective practice of calling your elected representatives to tell them not to participate in making America more hostile to immigrants.
But even my steely determination occasionally flags after a year of the dehumanization of men, women and children at the border.
Cruelty is this administration's strategy, and it works on outside observers as well as it does on migrants. So, for now, all I ask is that you please not turn away. Stay engaged with the immigration crisis — keep yourself informed. America's status as a haven for those with no other options requires your sustained attention.