Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2017

Currently: 67° — Complete forecast

Sun Editorial:

Trump creating hardship, danger by widening net on ICE arrests

Immigration arrests are up 39 percent thus far in Donald Trump’s presidency compared to the same period in 2016 — Jan. 22 to June 24.

No doubt, Trump would love for Americans to believe that’s proof of follow-through on his campaign promise to kick “really bad dudes” out of the country.

But is someone driving without a license a really bad dude? Is someone whose record contains only a years-old DUI conviction a really bad dude?

No, which is why the increase in arrests is a cause for alarm.

According to a recent story in Time magazine, of the 65,704 people who were arrested by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement under Trump, more than a quarter committed no offense other than being in the country illegally. And of those who had criminal records, many had been convicted of nonviolent, low-level offenses — like driving without a license.

The result has been predictably heartbreaking. It’s driven undocumented immigrants underground for fear of being deported, leading to a significant decrease in people coming forward to report crimes in some areas with large Hispanic populations.

That includes Las Vegas, where activists report that there’s been a chilling effect.

Trump supporters may contend that deportations of criminals have spurred the drop-off in crimes being reported, but the more likely reason is that immigrants are frightened of being targeted for deportation if they step forward and cooperate with police.

In other words, the immigration push is creating a situation in which criminals can prey on an entire class of people with little if any fear of retribution.

That’s not conjecture, either. Activists who work with immigrants say it’s happening — women in abusive situations not reporting crimes, neighbors not dialing 911, people not seeking medical care for fear of being detected by ICE.

It’s horrible. Contrary to Trump’s disgusting comment during the election that immigrants from Mexico were murderers and rapists, vast majority of illegal immigrants are law-abiding other than their lack of documentation. They pay taxes, spend billions nationwide on goods and services, and tend not to break the law, because doing so would bring unwanted attention from authorities and possible deportation.

They’re our neighbors, and they’re a vital part of Las Vegas. As study after study shows, illegal immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take out through using public benefits. Contrary to what Trump’s characterization that they take Americans’ jobs and drive down wages, in reality they often take jobs that Americans don’t want.

A recent Pew study estimated that there were 170,000 undocumented immigrants living in the valley, so just imagine what would happen if they were removed from the economy.

Considering that the worst population drop-off in the valley during the recession was about 70,000 people, an out-migration more than twice that size would be devastating. For the good of the community, Trump’s friends and supporters who live, work and employ residents in Las Vegas should encourage him to consider what could happen here if he goes too far.

The Hispanic community also has enriched Las Vegas’ cultural diversity, helping enhance our status as a welcoming destination for tourists and residents alike.

Obviously, people who commit serious crimes should be targeted, but that should be happening regardless of the perpetrator’s citizenship status. Plus, arrests of undocumented immigrants who’d committed serious crimes was already happening during the Obama administration.

So by suppressing crime reporting in the immigrant community, the crackdown actually encourages violent crime.

Widening the net to include nonviolent, low-level offenders is cruel. It discourages well-meaning immigrants from pursuing citizenship, provides cover for criminals by destroying cooperation with law enforcement, separates families and robs communities of our neighbors.

No wonder voters buried Trump in Clark County, where Hillary Clinton got 52 percent of the vote to Trump’s 41 percent.

His ugly campaign against well-intentioned people is another indication that he deserved even less.