A year after a U.S. election marred by divisive rhetoric, thousands of families have been torn apart and millions are living in fear because of cruel and ineffective immigration policies. Every day, people who call the United States home – including the parents and spouses of U.S. citizens, tax-paying employees, and respected community members – are arrested, locked up, and deported, under laws that treat their deep and longstanding ties to this country as a thing of no consequence.
Our animated film by the illustrator Molly Crabapple, narrated by comedian Samantha Bee, highlights how rhetoric conflating illegal immigration with crime is as dangerous as it is divisive.
This didn’t begin with President Donald Trump: since the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has deported some five million people under a harsh legal framework that mandates deportations with almost no consideration of family or other deep-seated ties to the U.S. But President Barack Obama changed course during his second term, creating enforcement priorities meant to protect families and implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided a temporary reprieve from deportation for people who came to the U.S. as children.
Those reforms have been discarded: the Trump administration’s new enforcement priorities make nearly all 11 million undocumented immigrants targets for deportation. As a Trump official told Congress, if you’re an undocumented immigrant here, “[y]ou should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”
Under the current system’s rules, a man who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, has an American wife, and is the primary caretaker for his severely disabled stepson can be deported without consideration of the impact on his family. An Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military who sought asylum in the U.S. can be locked up for nearly a year in a detention system with conditions that are often horrible. A 10-year-old from El Salvador who witnessed the gang murder of his father and was threatened himself can face complex deportation proceedings without a lawyer. A U.S. Army veteran, whose mother was born in the U.S., can be deported because of a conviction linked to his struggles with drug dependency.
As a first step, Congress should pass a “clean” DREAM act to provide legal status to young people who came here as children. Legislators should also tackle the system’s larger inequities by creating a fair legalization program for immigrants with strong ties to the U.S. For those facing deportation, there should be a guarantee of fair hearings before immigration judges who are allowed to weigh the person’s family and community ties against the U.S.’s interest in deporting that person. The U.S. should also repeal harsh laws that replicate the worst criminal justice norms within our immigration system ― hundreds of thousands of immigrants are detained in jail-like conditions, and people with convictions for even minor or old offenses face harsh immigration penalties.
The worst aspects of U.S. immigration policies do not make this country stronger or safer. And they ignore history: this country was built by immigrants, including my mom, who came here from Mexico as a child with her Mexican dad and U.S. citizen mom. So we’re asking you to speak out: share this video and tell the world “Immigrants Are Us.” Then call your congressional representatives and tell them to not to fund Trump’s abusive agenda.