There is nothing more damaging to the cause of immigration reform than the insistence by some of treating criminals exactly the same as immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally but obey its laws. Unfortunately, however, this attitude persists in the era of Trump, even after his presidential campaign successfully reframed the immigration issue not just as a jobs issue but also as a crime issue.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has created a new $10 million fund to help potential deportees get legal counsel. It's a fine idea. But there is considerable rancor over the fact that convicted violent criminals, child abusers and human traffickers who face deportation are ineligible for help from the fund.
This perfectly reasonable limitation has the ACLU and otheractivists up in arms.
Carmen Iguina, an attorney with ACLU of Southern California, argues the L.A. Justice Fund should be accessible to all immigrants, stating that everyone has the right to due process.
"We shouldn't be saying that there are good and bad immigrants," Iguina said.
Actually, that's precisely what we should be saying. It is an essential premise in the argument that we shouldn't demonize all immigrants for the actions of very few.
And it's also what most Americans who are not fanatical immigration restrictionists happen to believe. Quinnipiac in March found that only 3 percent of Americans agree with a policy of zero deportations. Fifty-five percent believed that only violent criminals should be deported, and an additional 40 percent believed in a harsher policy — either that those convicted of any crime should be deported (21 percent), or that all illegal immigrants should be deported even if they committed no crime (19 percent).
If you can't make the distinction between violent criminals and everybody else, then you're not only way out of step with public opinion and common sense, but also ill-equipped to persuade anyone that it's safe to pass a law granting legal status to millions of people. The average DREAMer, brought to the U.S. as a child and obedient to its laws, should not have to suffer having his or her fate or status decided alongside that of The Railroad Killer. Most Americans' sense of fairness will not tolerate cramming the two into the same category.
In the U.S., we have the presumption of innocence until a defendant is convicted. But there's no presumption that a convicted foreign national who is a violent criminal should be allowed to continue living in the United States and potentially terrorizing its residents — usually victimizing other immigrants, if experience serves as a guide. There's even less justification for using taxpayers' money to help deportable convicted violent criminals remain free in the United States.