If you want to give a lesson on the definition of racism, look no further than the current administration’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In a sneak attack before dawn on Wednesday, ICE agents stormed 98 different 7-Eleven stores to deliver audit notices and interview employees. They made 21 arrests in stores across 17 states and Washington D.C. Because if you work at 7-Eleven, you must be illegal and you certainly aren’t white.
While 7-Elevens in Utah weren’t among the stores targeted by ICE, Utahns have definitely felt the increased threat and intimidation operations like this one are intended to cause. So much so that they aren’t reporting crime. And that’s not good for anyone.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Christopher Smart wrote earlier this week that Police Chief Mike Brown is concerned that “undocumented immigrants have receded into the shadows for fear of being deported.”
Brown said, “There is a true fear out there. I think there are those who are victims and witnesses who sit back and don’t report. We have to keep reaching out to this community and say we aren’t going to enforce immigration laws.”
Crime is down in Salt Lake City, but down even more in the Latino community. Smart reported, “overall crime was down 1.4 percent from January through May 2016 compared with a similar period in 2017. But in the Latino community, it was down 12.9 percent, according to Salt Lake City police statistics.”
That stark difference between crime rates indicates that unauthorized immigrants are not reporting crime.
For Salvadoran Utahns, the issue has become even more stark. The Trump administration recently announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status special protections that have allowed Salvadorans to be in the U.S. legally since earthquakes hit the country in 2001. That is 17 years – an entire lifetime for many young adults.
Almost 200,000 Salvadorans must leave the country or face deportation. They have until September 2019.
There are 1,600 Salvadoran immigrants in Utah, and they have 1,000 children who were born here, and are therefore U.S. citizens. They’ve lived here in average of 20 years. A lifetime.
We welcomed these neighbors here when their country suffered a natural disaster from which their governments could not recover from quickly. El Salvador is riddled with crime and poverty. Even the U.S. State Department has told citizens not to visit, warning them of murder, extortion, assault and robbery.
The refugees have built homes and lives and families in this country. They have contributed to our economy and our culture. A cutoff of their special status 20 years later is both arbitrary and cruel.
We should allow them to stay.