By Melinda Katz
President Trump’s immigration policy is dehumanizing individuals, ripping children from the arms of their parents and tearing families apart.
It makes this otherwise-proud American deeply embarrassed of my home country. The future history of the United States will be unkind to this national shame and humanitarian crisis.
We are better than this. We must be better than this.
I could talk about the poem on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” I could cite that sacred document called the Constitution that lays out basic due process needs by which a government must abide. I could also reference the Four Freedoms that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt espoused and is memorialized in the State of New York by the great Park on Roosevelt Island.
As an attorney by trade, a former professor of Constitutional Law, and as the president of the Borough of Queens, where 48 percent of our 2.3 million residents were born outside the United States, I hold all these principles to be “self-evident.”
Today, however, all of it – including the character of our nation – is being tested.
As a mother, as an American, and as a woman of faith, our nation’s broken immigration laws and policies shake me to my core. It keeps me up at night to imagine having my 7-year-old urgently memorize a phone number, knowing that once he is ripped away from my arms indefinitely into the unknown, his ability to remember those precious 10 digits will be the only lifeline to connect to any family. It wrenches my heart to imagine the horror of my child locked up behind a chain-linked cage, and not having any way to contact or track him, much less know where or how he is.
Even in a Sanctuary City like New York, broad raids and sweeps of immigration enforcement – even of those without a criminal record – have successfully spread fear and imposed a chilling effect on everyday activities and responsibilities.
This is an issue that transcends any debate about immigration or borders. Such cruelty betrays the American narrative. It is a barbaric, xenophobic immigration policy unfitting of the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. Set forth by President Trump, this government-sanctioned nightmare is wreaking terror upon millions of families, including American citizens.
To separate families like this challenges and compromises our humanity. With one action by the president, this horrifying reality can come to a halt. We must not and will not rest until then.
In the meantime, Queens will continue to do everything possible to help counteract the hostility of the current political climate. We are a nation of immigrants, and Queens is about all of our families’ futures. Next week, I am hosting a “Know Your Rights Week” for immigrants in partnership with a host of organizations and colleagues in local government. The legal advice is free and confidential, available at five events across five neighborhoods between June 25-29 designed to connect our various communities to committed legal experts, advocates and other resources. Queens has your back.