From his promise of a “beautiful wall” to his false alarms about caravans of alien marauders at the gate, President Trump has exploited immigration as his marquee issue. He is right, there is a crisis: Not of undocumented immigrants or thousands seeking refuge, as the president would have it, but a crisis of American values, a crisis of America’s premier tradition as a welcoming and humane haven. A crisis Mr. Trump has created, even as Congress has fueled it.
That is not to deny that comprehensive immigration reform is urgently needed, as is funding for the overstretched facilities where undocumented immigrants, and most horribly the children of undocumented immigrants, are held.
But, by his divisive, incoherent and barbaric policies, Mr. Trump has only made agreeing on an approach to immigration in the United States far more difficult. He has done so by systematically creating a false narrative of immigrants as job-stealing criminals, by insisting that there is a crisis of illegal immigration where there is none and, most maliciously, by dreaming up schemes to torment these people in the perverse notion that this would deter others from trying to reach the United States.
The most appalling of these has been the separation of children from their parents and detaining them in conditions no child anywhere should suffer, and certainly not children in the care of the American government. At a recent hearing before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, judges were stunned by the administration’s arguments that children sleeping on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, without soap or toothbrushes, were being kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities, as required by law. “You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?” asked one judge.
Mr. Trump’s latest display of cruel bluster was the announcement, and then the delay, of nationwide raids to deport undocumented families. In fact, deporting immigrants who have exhausted their legal claims is not uncommon — President Obama, remember, was often referred to by immigration groups as “deporter in chief” — and the targets of these raids are not random. But Mr. Trump sought to use the operation to strut before his base and extract concessions from Democrats, and spread panic through immigrant communities. His announcement delayed action by Congress and made the operation that much more difficult by warning those targeted for deportation. Then he tweeted that he was delaying the raids for two weeks.
The United States urgently needs an immigration policy that combines border security, justice and humanity. President Trump has promoted policies that undermine all these goals, and Congress has failed to agree on a coherent vision. You can help turn that around. Here’s how:
Call Congress, your mayor and local representatives. Contact your representative and tell them you want upcoming ICE raids to be called off and detention conditions improved. The legal defense nonprofit Raices has provided a template and an online form that you can use to email your congressional representatives. You can also reach out to your local representatives to ask that they initiate plans to help immigrant communities that are affected by the raids. This official government website has provided links to finding your city, county and town officials.
Report and document raids and arrests. The National Immigration Law Center has suggested reporting raids to local hotlines, such as United We Dream’s MigraWatch. Raices has said that over the next few days there will be a surge of posts on social media that say ICE has been spotted. The group has urged that people verify these posts before sharing or retweeting because false alarms could spread fear in immigrant communities.
Donate to humanitarian efforts. Many immigrants are not informed of their legal and civil rights as they pursue asylum or face deportation. Several nonprofits are providing free legal representation and other services for immigrants and the families of those detained. United We Dream, the American Civil Liberties Union, Mijente and Immigrant Justice Corps are coordinating advocacy and services at a national level. Local organizations providing legal aid include New Sanctuary Coalition in New York, Las Americas in El Paso and Raices in Texas, Americans for Immigrant Justice in Florida and Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund in Colorado.
Pilar Weiss, project director of the National Bail Fund Network, says one of the most effective ways to reunite immigrants separated from their families is to assist with paying their bail, which can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $80,500. You can find and donate to a bail fund in your city through the National Bail Fund Network.
Inform yourself and your community. The A.C.L.U., who joined forces with Brooklyn Defender Services, has shared a “Know Your Rights” page for encounters with ICE. They have also provided a video to help understand your rights and what to do if ICE officials come to your home.
Hold political candidates accountable. While the presidential primaries are at least seven months away, you can prepare to cast your ballot for a more humane border policy by following what each candidate has shared about their plans for immigration reform.
Speak up. Protest marches and other civic actions to end detention camps and squalid conditions for children and families, are expected across the country in the coming weeks. Or you can also take part in Lights for Liberty, a nationwide vigil on July 12 at 9 p.m. local time. Locations for the vigil include:
El Paso: where migrants are being housed “partially outdoors” near a bridge with no running water for months at a time;
Homestead, Fla.: where a migrant children’s detention facility has been charged with rampant abuse and neglect;
San Diego: near the point of entry border crossing from Tijuana, Mexico;
New York City: where deportation rates have increased by 150 percent between 2016 and 2018;
Washington, D.C. (in front of the Capitol building): to demand action from Congress.