Our immigration policy and debate: cold as ICE?

Two unrelated events occurred mid-week that underscored America’s fractured immigration system — and how our broken politics get in the way of solving anything.

The first happened Wednesday, when two brothers from El Salvador were deported on the very day the younger one planned to start college in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship. Lizandro Claros Saravia came here with his older brother, Diego, when he was 11 years old, but neither he nor Diego had proper papers. Consequently, both boys were adjudged to have entered the U.S. illegally. As deportation proceedings dragged on, they attended school, played sports, and blended into their suburban Maryland community.

In 2012, an immigration judge ruled against them, but they were allowed a one-year stay in 2013. They didn’t qualify for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because they hadn’t entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007. Yet neither got into any trouble with the law, so deporting them wasn’t a priority.

The election of Donald Trump changed things. Ironically, the Claros Saravia brothers got on the government’s radar by trying to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement regulations. Lizandro called ICE officials to say he was headed to Louisburg College and that Diego was planning to accompany him. Could their required annual check-in site be changed from Baltimore to an ICE location near the school? On the contrary, replied the feds. Going away to college demonstrated plans to set down roots. Five days later they were put on a plane to San Salvador.

The same day, President Trump threw his support behind Senate legislation seeking to lower annual immigration numbers with a merit-based system giving preference to those with language proficiency, marketable skills, and who would be unlikely to rely on government assistance programs. Tightening U.S. immigration policies — legal and illegal — is more popular in the country as a whole than in American newsrooms. This dichotomy was showcased in the White House briefing room during an indecorous clash Wednesday between CNN’s Jim Acosta and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump.

Before I delve into their back-and-forth, let me note my own bias. I love immigrants. I love them so much I dedicated my new book to them. Moreover, when I write about this subject, I often gloss over the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. I’m pro-legal immigrant, and lenient on illegal immigration, too. I…

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