We Must Act Now to Protect Immigrants

Natalie Bao Tram Le

Next week, the House will vote on legislation that would protect DREAMers that were brought into the US as children.

Several Democrat and Republican lawmakers signed the discharge petition in order to force a vote on four DACA-related bills: the Securing America's Future Act, the DREAM Act, the USA Act, and an immigration bill chosen by Speaker Paul Ryan. This petition came after President Donald Trump called for a replacement of DACA before the March deadline. However, the deadline had already passed with no deal. Now DREAMers are at risk of being deported, and Congress must act quickly to find a solution to protect them.

Since the campaign trail, Trump has been adamant on fixing the immigration system. Five days after he took office, he issued an executive order that expanded immigration enforcement, putting families, long-time residents, and “Dreamers” – children of illegal immigrants who were brought into the country at a young age – at risk of deportation. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of arrests by ICE reached an all-time high during the past three years.

Boston experienced a 50 percent increase in ICE arrests in over a year. It was also the target of ICE’s four-day “Operation Safe City,” which ended on September 27, 2017. The operation focuses on cities that serve as sanctuaries for immigrants and deny ICE agents from having access to jails and prisons in order to interview suspected immigration violators. 50 people were arrested in the city, 20 of which had no criminal record.

The deportation mandate brought hardship for innocent families across the nation, including Beverly, Massachusetts residents Fabiano De’Oliveira and his wife, Karah De’Oliveira. Fabiano moved to the country illegally in 2005 from Brazil and works as a painter. He and Karah began dating in 2010, have a five-year-old boy, and were married in 2016. On January 9, the couple went to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office in Lawrence to be interviewed so that Fabiano could get a green card. Instead, he was arrested by ICE agents. Kara De’Oliveira told theBoston Herald, “I cried for a good five days… My husband is in prison. He does not belong in there. My son is without a father.” On February 9, De’Oliveira was finally released by ICE and reunited with his family. The fact that the Trump administration is suggesting greater enforcement measures is heartless and would tear more families like the De’Oliveiras apart.

Trump’s anti-immigration directives would also debilitate our economy. By removing immigrants from Massachusetts’ economy, the state would lose hard workers that pay $11.9 billion a year in taxes and hold the spending power of $31 billion. There are concerns that unauthorized immigrants are “mooching” off government programs. But according to the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit that advocates for undocumented immigrants, non-citizens pay $13 billion into Social Security each year, yet only receive $1 billion in benefits. The revenue that immigrants generate, even factoring in the cost of receiving public benefits, far exceeds Trump’s proposed $23 billion wall. Trump would be unwise to continue hindering the lives of immigrants who contribute to our growing economy.

Immigrants come to the US in hopes of having a better life, and we have already witnessed what they are capable of. They contribute to our growing economy, raise families, and create more jobs for citizens and noncitizens alike. By separating families, threatening to send troops to the border to prevent the migrant caravan, and proposing a $23 billion wall, President Trump and his administration are being cruel and unfair to those who truly want to be in the US. Congress’ utmost priority should be letting non-criminal immigrants stay here and do what they have been wanting to do for so long – live their lives peacefully.

Natalie Bao Tram Le is the North American Events Chair for Students For Liberty and a graduate student at Harvard University. Follow her on Twitter@NatalieBaoTramL.