Greatness measured by how we treat weakest among us

Published 10:48 am Friday, June 1, 2018

The measure of a nation’s greatness — That measure, in the words of Mahatma Ghandi, is “…measured by how it treats its weakest.”

America has not always been a great nation by these terms. At the turn of the early 20th century, Upton Sinclair authored “The Jungle,” depicting the horrific treatment of immigrants in America at that time.

Today, we are a nation in need of a new Sinclair, one able to depict the true nature and practices of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in border enforcement, arrests and deportations.

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In 2017, the new Trump administration authorized the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to direct ICE to be more aggressive on its enforcement activities. The new guidelines were gleefully welcomed by ICE agents who were unhappy with the less aggressive approach of the Obama administration. Under the previous administration, there was no support for deporting non-criminal illegal residents.

The ICE and border patrol unions reported that morale soared once they were given freedom to go after any illegal. And did they ever go after anyone? Here are a couple of deported illegals: A Palestinian business owner in Youngstown, Ohio, married with four children after 38 years here; A Detroit father after 30 years in the U.S. and no criminal record; a 54-year-old chemist arrested while taking his daughter to school. He had two speeding tickets; and Manual Montes, 23, a DACA man who has lived in the U.S. since he was nine.

Further, the ICE detention centers, according to a National Public Radio article citing a federal report, are providing inhumane treatment, inadequate medical care and potentially unsafe food to detainees.

Yet all of this may pale when the treatment at the border is considered.

In the Trump administration’s zeal to deny U.S. policy, law, and practice, anyone seeking asylum in America is arrested, detained, and charged with illegal entry. If they have their children with them, the children are taken from them into custody and shipped possibly thousands of miles away from their parents. When their parents are released from custody, the parents must then somehow learn how to navigate the U.S. system to locate and reunite with their children. This week, ICE reported that it has, at the very least, misplaced 1,475 of these children. At the most, some may have fallen into the hands of human traffickers.

What this process does is to deny due process to parents who seek to stay together with their children, a constitutionally-protected right not limited to citizens. But the process is truly worse than even its constitutional shortcomings, it is a policy designed to subvert law, author cruelty, and deny human compassion in order to, in the words of ex-Homeland Security Sec. John F. Kelly, “(the) name of the game is deterrence.”

That is, the U.S. government hopes to be so cruel to those seeking asylum here that they will run in another direction. In the nation that has these words emblazoned 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. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We are people no better than our treatment of the weakest among us, and who is weaker than those running from life-threatening existences, those carrying small children in their arms, those seeking nothing more than to live in the only country they have ever known, and those who have lived in America for 30 years or more who are cast out for their original sin?

Where is our Upton Sinclair today?


Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.