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The Department of Homeland Security has begun launching raids against undocumented immigrants, including many women and children, and rushing them into deportation proceedings. As many as 121 asylum seekers have been taken into custody in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas.

The raids were announced two days before Christmas, and families began being targeted right after New Year's Day. The government has been deploying female officers accompanied by medical staff, using police cruisers equipped with car seats—a clear indication of the “threat level” the targeted immigrants pose.

Why is DHS targeting families fleeing horrific violence in Central America, people who had no choice but to run? According to a Jan. 4 statement by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, the crackdown is a response to a spike in the number of asylum-seekers presenting themselves at the border. “Our borders are not open to illegal migration,” he wrote. “If you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values.” He said the current raids target those with “final orders of removal.” But his statement is profoundly misleading.

First of all, presenting oneself at the border to claim asylum is not “illegal immigration.” A person fleeing persecution is supposed to present herself to an immigration officer to claim asylum. Following the law is not illegal.

Secondly, it has been a matter of longstanding policy and practice to treat recent entrants with no criminal record as a low priority for removal. But the 2016 raids are focusing on recent entrants, wrongly treating them as if they were a national security threat or people with extensive and felonious criminal records.

This flies in the face of common sense. And even more troubling is that these orders of deportation—supposedly final—are being issued with levels of due process one might expect to see in a country like Saudi Arabia. Common features include mislabeled notices, improper service, coercion, and woefully inadequate legal representation. Many of the recipients may well qualify for asylum or other protection—but are not given a chance to fairly make their case.

What, then, is DHS trying to prove, going after children and families? Is this really, as Johnson says, an attempt to “secure the border” and perhaps gain the support of impossible-to-please immigration restrictionists?

Meanwhile, the fear in the Latino community is palpable and deplorable. The raids are increasing distrust of law enforcement in immigrant communities, which discourages crime reporting and weakens the effectiveness of law enforcement itself.

My colleagues in immigration law offices around the country are fielding a rush of calls from desperate clients who want to know if they should leave their homes for any reason, even to go to routine court dates.

Ultimately, this is a misguided and ill-advised move by DHS. Sensible prioritization means going after the dangerous people first. We should be going after serious criminal offenders, not terrified children and parents who came to this country seeking asylum.



Hassan Ahmad is immigration attorney in McLean, Virginia and tweets at @HMALawFirm

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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