If there was a unifying theme of Donald Trump's disjointed, sporadically incoherent State of the Union, it was that law enforcement officials and military officers are America's most valorous citizens. During one of his myriad tributes, the most of any presidential address in recent memory, he singled out the work of Special Agent Celestino Martinez, who served 15 years in the U.S. Air Force before joining Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered CJ's murder," the president droned. "But he did not cave to threats or fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 from MS-13."
One name Trump neglected to mention was that of Jorge Ramos, a 39-year-old father of two who was torn from his family's arms after living in the United States for more than 30 years. While deportations have dipped slightly, arrests of non-criminal immigrants surged 250 percent in 2017, from 5,498 to 13,600. Now ICE is adding another vulnerable group to its ever-expanding list of targets: spouses seeking legal residency.
“It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s heartless. It’s non-compassionate," immigration attorney Jeffrey B. Rubin tells the Boston Herald. "It’s un-American — there is no need for it."
Rubin is representing 33-year-old Fabiano de Oliveira, a Brazilian native who was detained by ICE officials while he and his wife, Karah, were visiting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Lawrence, MA. The couple, who began dating in 2010 and have a 5-year-old son together, were being interviewed as part of a routine proceeding to determine the legitimacy of their marriage. For the spouses of U.S. citizens, this is typically the first step towards obtaining a green card.
According to Rubin, de Oliveira has a "nearly spotless record" but for the offense of driving without a license, a crime that didn't even surface in the FBI's fingerprint check. Under the Obama administration, the immigrant husbands and wives of U.S. citizens were allowed to stay in the country while their applications were being reviewed. As the Journal notes, the policy was designed to keep families intact and "expedite a process that in the past could take more than several years."
“This used to happen back in the mid-2000s. I’ve been around long enough to remember,” says Rubin. “It’s new for recent time. It appears they just initiated that only a few weeks ago.”
During his response to the State of the Union, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) assured Dreamers that, "Ustedes son parte de nuestra historia," you are part of our story — this despite the fact that they've spent their entire lives in the U.S., and English is their native language. But like so much of the Democrats' messaging since Trump assumed office, it was a speech long on pandering and short on policy specifics.
If the party really wants to offer something to immigrants, it can start by calling for the abolition of ICE.