Don’t subject immigrants to cruel games

President Trump has threatened “millions” of immigrants here illegally with a gigantic, probably impossible deportation action.

For the past week, President Donald Trump has threatened “millions” of immigrants here illegally with a gigantic, probably impossible deportation action. He has done this gleefully on Twitter, as if nationwide raids were a big, exciting game: “Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”

Trump has legitimate power to direct enforcement actions against those under a deportation order. Such actions aren’t new, particularly for violent offenders who make communities unsafe. But dragnet removal of every one of the million-plus immigrants with a deportation order would be nearly impossible.

And what Trump is doing with brash announcements — further scaring families who have built stable lives here and contribute to their communities — is counterproductive and cruel. Especially when processing centers to hold those under such orders are overfilled and the federal agency overseeing them (without permanent leadership) is working at capacity. Premature announcements of such raids also put law enforcement at risk.

Inhumane to toy with real lives

Trump appears taken with the idea of diplomacy by tweet, putting wild-man pressure on dictators and foreign trade ministers, and trying to act tough to dissuade migrants from traveling to the U.S. border. Successful or not, this method is inhumane when toying with actual lives.

Since his first tweet about a sinister deportation action, many immigrants and their family members have been in a state of preparation frenzy. At a news conference Monday in Jackson Heights, advocates talked about immigrants changing residences. One woman approached an advocate and said she had encouraged her frightened neighbor to enter her home to confuse immigration agents. Then the neighbor could go to her own home through the back.

Pair this with the crisis situation at the Southern border, where unacceptable facilities are being overwhelmed to the point that hundreds of migrant children had to be moved out of one in Texas.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would delay his big deportation event as a bargaining chip to encourage Democrats to work on a solution to the asylum and border crises. Congress should indeed take action. And humane and comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, as we have written again and again.

Trump running again on immigration

But the emotions of people who came here for better lives are not bargaining chips, particularly when the president’s scaremongering seems so blatantly political. Trump, who kicked off his re-election campaign last week, is returning to the immigration issue that powered his 2016 run.

The emotional examples are not hard to find. amNewYork’s partner paper, Newsday, just published the story of “Esteban” and “María,” pseudonyms for two immigrants who built lives in New York who were separated when Esteban was arrested on a deportation order. Newsday could not find a record of crimes other than for his border crossing. Once he returned to the United States and María, he went back to work.

These are the kinds of families that Trump is bent on terrifying. For many, the cruel way he implements his policies is just as frightening.

The Editorial Board