Are they “undocumented immigrants” or “illegal aliens”?
How we answer that question has become a litmus test in a country where politics seem to be getting more and more bipolar: blue vs. red, liberal vs. conservative, those who favor relatively permissive policies toward these people vs. those who like the new administration’s get-tough stance.
One side wants strict compliance with the law, and it’s hard to argue with that: The law is the law. They may also argue that immigrants take jobs away from those who are already here, and that they consume services that cost taxpayers money. Indeed, the immigration reforms of 1965 had already altered our society by greatly increasing immigration from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
The other side says, in effect, Have a heart: Many of the people who now face likely deportation have been here for years, even decades; they’ve been paying their taxes; often they have children, born here, who therefore are American citizens. To rip such families apart is cruel and unusual punishment. President Donald Trump’s current crackdown is making life tougher for these people. Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it prioritizes the arrest and removal of national-security and public-safety threats, no category of aliens in the United States is exempt from such treatment.
“The president has asked for 10,000 more ICE agents,” says the Rev. James Manship, the new pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Meriden. “These are folks that are terrorizing the community and tearing families apart.” Connecticut families, Meriden families.
Manship comes to Meriden from St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven, another mainly Spanish-speaking parish, where he was instrumental a few years ago in bringing certain abusive practices of the East Haven Police Department to the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI investigated. Several officers were arrested. The department remains under a federal consent order.
And yet, Manship does not see himself as an activist. “I’m not an activist. I’m a priest,” he told a New Haven Register reporter in 2009 — a priest who follows the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, right up to the writings of Pope Francis.
ICE says that it concentrates on rounding up dangerous criminals — President Trump’s “bad hombres.” But plenty of ordinary people are getting swept up in the process.
Does “justice” demand that every rule and regulation be enforced to the hilt? Even if that means that families will be torn apart? Even if that means sending people back to homelands that, in some cases, are ravaged by violent drug gangs?