A recent immigration raid in Yakima, Washington highlights the absurdity of our current laws and enforcement mechanisms. Above all it highlights the hypocrisy of a community that benefits daily from the work and contributions of undocumented immigrants while criminalizing and turning its nose up at their very presence. One day after President Obama delivered an inspiring speech on immigration reform, ICE officers rained down on over 20 undocumented immigrants throughout Yakima, arresting them and placing them in government custody.
So who are these folks? Nefarious drug dealers, human traffickers? Surely there is justification for the use of heavily armed SWAT teams, right? As it turns out, the people who were arrested are being accused of working with fake papers, nothing more.
Last night I had the opportunity to interview four of the arrested immigrants. They have been here since 1997, working, paying taxes, and going to church. Between them there are a couple of speeding tickets, but no other criminal history whatsoever. Each one has been separated from their US Citizen children, and each family is now scrambling to figure out how to survive. These people were not involved in any way in a criminal enterprise. They were dishwashers and busboys, earning money to feed their children.
Even the staunchest of enforcement-hawks must stop and question this allocation of resources. Tax payers will no doubt have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for the arrests and prosecutions in these cases when all is said and done, money that might have gone towards our schools, roads, or even the investigation of actual crimes.
These folks need advocates, now more than ever. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can help:
1. Call, write, or tweet your senators and representatives and encourage them to support the President’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
2. Organize peaceful protests or marches in your community to show solidarity with the immigrant community.
3. Contact your local police and ICE offices to let them know you expect them to prioritize their enforcement efforts.
4. Educate yourself and spread the word. This case is only one of thousands of examples of how the current system is broken. Tell your friends and families about the injustices happening in your communities, and encourage them to get involved.
Together we can make a difference.