Emma Lazarus, Prominent Immigrant Rights Activist, Deported by ICE

No, Emma Lazarus has not been deported. She died an American poet and writer of prominence an age ago. It is her poem, The New Colossus, that is engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, rendering it an elemental touchstone; a quintessential element of the American Dream. Yet, she might as well have been, given the Trump Administration’s obsessive and venal hatred of people of color; especially when they are immigrants. It is the ethos of what she wrote that seems to have been deported in Trump’s Amerika.

We’re all waiting for the immigrants from Russia, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Poland to be notified they are about to be deported by ICE en mass. Yet, somehow that never happens. The Russians at least would need to remain here if only to meet with Donald Trump and his campaign and administration.

Two days ago in New York City, prominent immigration rights activist and respected community leader Ravi Bagbir, was detained by ICE agents as part of his routine check-in under legal permanent resident status, placed in an ambulance, and sent away for what is feared to be immediate deportation. Due process has been denied him. Protestors have been demonstrating since his detention outside the Federal Building there. As of this writing, it is unclear whether or not he has been deported or not. He emigrated to New York from Trinidad legally in the 1990’s. Bagbir is the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York. He did serve short prison sentence for bank fraud, from which he is still trying to clear his name. That might account for some of the scrutiny he has come under. #IStandWithRavi

The fact he is an effective leader of the immigrant rights movement has more to do with his persecution by our government. Homeland Security is less and less an arm of 17 Federal agencies that help protect us, and more and more an instrument of oppression; the very expression of the thousands of cheering mobs at Trump rallies. ICE is the immigrant secret police in our drama. Both legal and undocumented immigrants fear it.

The Trump Administration has greatly stepped up ICE enforcement. Just the last two months both Haitian and Salvadoran persons with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) here in the United States now face losing it in less than 18 months.

Trump today called these “Shit-hole countries.” Democratic leaders of Congress were present as he said this, trying to get a DACA bill through Congress. Trump’s so called “bill of love.”

Many of the Salvadorans, most in fact, have been here for 20 years and more. For many, their children have been born here. The first ones are now sophomores in college and they still need their parents. Families are facing all sorts of split ups. It is the human cost of these policy changes that opponents of immigration ignore. It is the realities of just what immigrants contribute these xenophobes are ignorant of.

The State of Arizona learned that undocumented immigrants alone account for 1.1 billion in tax income each year. How would that be replaced? Or can that be easily cut out of the state budget without consequence? Yes, immigrants pay sales taxes. They do not get all sorts of Federal program dollars either. You fill out state or federal forms and that leads to prying eyes as to your real status here. They work. They do the picking in our fields. The State of Alabama passed a draconian law against the undocumented a decade ago. It left melons and other vegetables rotting in the fields. They bus our tables, mow our lawns, tend our gardens, care for our children, and consume as consumers expanding state economies across the nation. They also (especially among Latinos) create successful businesses all out of proportion to their numbers.

Best of all, far from being drug addicts, rapists, and criminals, studies have shown that undocumented immigrants, and immigrants generally, offend at rates LOWER than the native born Americans already here–and that includes white people. There really is no basis on which to fear them. They merely seek what Emma Lazarus wrote of so eloquently of 19th Century America with those immortal words engraved upon the Statue of Liberty.

Imagine you are going down to the dock where immigrants arrive from wherever your very ancestors arrived from. Now hold that picture in your mind for a while. Perhaps it is an international airport. What do they look like? Smell like, dress like? Here in 2018, seeing them on the street right in front of you, just as they came into the country then. At the very first moment. How comfortable would you be greeting them today? Or would you turn away in disgust at the filthy, poor, frightened people who ARE your ancestors.

In most cases, they would not speak English at all or if so, a very broken version of it. They’d be lost. What train to catch? How much money do they have left? Who will speak for them. Some of you would have rich ancestors who walked down the ramp of ocean liners or right out of first class on some airline with a foreign name on the fuselage. White supremacists could boast they spoke English, well sort of. Though the King’s English of 1607 might startle even you who laud your Anglo-Saxon Celtic Roots. They emptied the English jails for those of you white Georgians lamenting the loss by your team in the National Championship.

In my case I’d see them as some group of scary foreigners, speaking German, or Norwegian mostly; Polish, French, Italian. And how they look? Just so foreign and unknown. Scary even. In photographs, they look so happy that they appear as if they are about to be shot. Hairy, smelly, and with odd looks. Yes smelly. You know you don’t wash much in steerage down there. Didn’t you see the movie Titanic? I’ve seen the pictures of my ancestors. My Martin (Marti) ancestors look like close friends of Sacco or Vanzetti. I take that as a complement of course. Before you judge; remember from whence you come.

Thomas Martin Saturday for Struggles for Justice,

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