Keith Rosson with an emotional appeal against absolutist solutions regarding immigration, use of force, deportation.

We watch a Tucson cop through his bodycam as he pushes an 86 year-old protester onto the ground. She and three other women have been blocking a police van from leaving the area. Police unlink the women’s arms. The woman weighs less than a hundred pounds. She’s less than four and a half feet tall. He pushes her, and we watch as she falls like a toppled tree onto her back. She hits her head on the pavement. Then we watch the cop pepper spray another woman in the face when she tries to help the old woman up. The woman pepper sprayed, we find out later, is a 65 year-old retired schoolteacher.

The women were protesting this administration’s immigration policies and deportation raids.

They were blocking traffic, said police.

It’s a safety and logistical challenge, they said.

Thirteen people were arrested on President’s Day at a protest in Portland, Oregon. They protested outside of the Federal Building and did not have a permit. They were blocking traffic. They were given verbal warnings to disperse and then riot police moved in. Among those arrested was a 67 year-old woman who suffered a broken nose after being pushed to the ground by riot cops. We watch the local news moments after it happens, see this tiny woman, blood on her face, arms cuffed behind her, flanked by a trio of police in body armor, visored helmets. We call our Mayor. We ask him if these tactics are in line with a police force who has only a few years before settled a case with the United States Department of Justice in regards to use of force against its mentally ill citizens.

These people were protesting, among other things, this administration’s immigration policies and deportation raids.

They were blocking traffic, said police.

It’s a safety and logistical challenge, they said.

Some raw numbers: Roughly 1,500 people have had their DACA status revoked due to aggravated felony convictions or gang affiliations, according to John Kerry, Secretary of State under the Obama administration, out of some 750,000 applicants. The Drumpf administration has long stated that deportation raids are targeting gang members and violent criminals, not DACA recipients. February’s initial tier of coordinated raids seem – according to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security – to reflect that: they say some 75% of those arrested had prior criminal convictions. But what’s key here is that this includes, under Drumpf’s executive order, the broadening of who constitutes a “target.” A target now includes any illegal immigrant who has been convicted of any crime, be it a busted taillight or an expired ID. (Though it should be noted that ICE has as of yet provided detailed arrest information on only 15 of the hundreds of people arrested in last month’s raids, so who knows how accurate those numbers really are.)

Anecdotally, we hear varying accounts. We hear of checkpoints, work sites raided. Reports of agents entering apartment complexes, knocking on door and asking for papers. We hear of fathers being arrested dropping their children off at school. Mothers taken away in cuffs from their child’s football practice.

“They’re bringing crime,” Drumpf said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” A craven appeal to fear, to ousting those that are Not Us.

Okay. Consider this an emotional appeal as well.

The media reports that a second DREAMer – recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program instigated by President Obama meant to allow children of illegal immigrants two-year work authorizations – has just been arrested hours after speaking to the media about how ICE agents had arrested her family and sent them to a Louisiana detention center the week before.
Daneila Vargas had reapplied for her two-year DACA authorization, but the permit had yet to be reapproved by Homeland Security. President Drumpf has previously assured the public that DREAMers would be safe from enforcement and targeting from ICE. Her parents brought her to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7. ICE is now saying that she will be deported without a hearing or a bond.

Vargas’s statement: “I don’t understand why they don’t want me. I’m doing the best I can. I mean I can’t help that I was brought here but I don’t know anything else besides being here and I didn’t realize that until I was in a holding cell last night for 5 hours. I was brought here. I didn’t choose to be here. And when I was brought here, I had to learn a whole new country and leave behind the one that I did know. And I barely knew that one. I feel, I strongly feel that I belong here and I strongly feel that I should be given a chance to be here and do something good and work in this economy. There’s so much that I can bring to the table, so much, like I can even teach music, I’m an excellent trumpet player you can ask my mom about any of that.  I’m great with math, I speak Spanish. You know, there’s a lot of stuff that I can do for this country that they’re not allowing me to do. I’ve even tried to join the military, and I can’t do that. But, I mean that’s not the point, the whole point is that I would do anything for this country.”

If the President of the United States is going to make brazen, emotional outreaches based off of fear – and having the families of people murdered by illegal immigrants giving tearful speeches in front of members of Congress about their dead loved ones could certainly be considered as much – then I’d also like to appeal to your heartstrings. This woman came here when she was seven years old. Even if her DACA permit had already been reapproved, ICE is saying she’d have been sent away regardless. This is your drug dealer? This is your rapist? This nerd that plays the trumpet is your craven, ill-intentioned bogeyman?

I work at an elementary school in an afterschool literacy program. Last week I received an email from my program director that said, “Given the culture at our school, it is unlikely that our program will be approached by ICE. It is not, however, out of the realm of possibility.” We were told to contact our office staff immediately if approached by ICE agents, and to repeat our 4th and 5th Amendment rights while waiting for assistance. “This is the language you should use,” the email said, “in order to protect our families.”

It’s a huge, massive, sprawling, messy, hurtful, amazing country.

Immigration reform is necessary. Illegal immigration is a crime. Sure.

And yet. According to a 2014 Pew Research study: Illegal immigrants make up 3.5% of the US population. Mexicans make up 52% of that number, though that’s been declining for a decade. Roughly 50% of illegal aliens are people who arrive here legally and stay once their visa expired. The whole “illegal aliens are more likely to commit crimes” thing has been debunked. But yes, it’s definitely a complicated issue, and one that can’t be pinned down in a thousand words. And when we talk about it, we also need to talk about issues like globalism, free trade, the drug wars and America’s unending addiction to drugs, the ferocity of drug cartels, or the bevy of reasons – be it political, militarily, or economical – why someone would willingly flee their own country.

But when we put ourselves in these “all or nothing” situations – as a people, as a country guided by principles – we resort to absolutism. We resort to black and white answers to an issue rife with grays, with middle ground. And this is when the potential for irreparable harm comes to a democracy. The way things are going now seems to be painting us well on our way to nationalist isolationism (which some might say is the point) and brutal economic failure.

Sure, this is an emotional appeal, but when our decisions begin regularly uprooting families, sending people back to a country that they literally cannot remember, when their crime was being moved from Point A to Point B by their parents, it becomes an emotional issue. It becomes an appeal to the heart. I don’t know what the answer is, but the strongarm absolutism I’m seeing from the new administration… this isn’t really the direction we want to go, is it? This isn’t the answer.

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