President Trump's broken promises on immigration

Apr 24, 2017

“We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together.” — Donald Trump, Aug. 16, 2015.

Mario Hernandez-Delacruz is a man of many identities. Hernandez-Delacruz is a father of three, and a homeowner in southwest Detroit. He is a small-business owner, running his own flooring and carpeting business, and a regular taxpayer, giving the government his due. He has followed rules and regulations —  keeping his car registered and insured. He is a churchgoing man, and has worked to better his community by volunteering his services at the Spanish United Pentecostal Church. And, he is also an undocumented immigrant.

It was that last part of his identity that on April 14 cost him a one-way plane ticket to Mexico. It didn’t matter that Trump had promised to keep immigrant families together; what mattered was that Hernandez-Delacruz was undocumented. Despite the fact that he had been living in Detroit for 19 years, contributing to his community and supporting his family, new Trump administration policies resulted in his deportation.

Mario built a home, raised a family, created his own business, paid his taxes, volunteered at his church, checked in with immigration officials when required, and never had any criminal record.  And yet, he was forced to leave his home, his work and his citizen children.

“On Day One, I am going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country.” — Donald Trump, Aug. 27, 2016.

Despite the president’s campaign promise, Homeland Secretary John Kelly said in a Feb. 20 memo that the Department wouldn’t “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” That meant that all undocumented immigrants are at risk for deportation, not just those with criminal backgrounds as the president promised.

Under President Trump, ICE has increased arrests for undocumented immigrants who are convicted of a crime, but according to statistics reported in the Washington Post, arrests of immigrants without any criminal records have also increased during the first part of 2017. In fact, they’ve more than doubled. In 2016, under President Barack Obama, 92% of undocumented immigrants who were deported had a criminal record.

Deporting undocumented immigrants without any criminal history will not create safer communities.

In fact, such individuals may become less likely to report actual crimes because they are afraid of any interaction with law enforcement officials. That can lead to more dangerous communities for all of us, where criminals are allowed to break the law with impunity. Furthermore, past presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have understood that we cannot deport our way out of a broken immigration system. And it is important to remember that the Senate actually passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but House Republicans refused to even allow a vote on it.

It isn’t humane or wise to break up families. Pulling hardworking parents away from their children destabilizes communities, increases welfare dependency, and harms the future development of those children.

Trump seemed to acknowledge these realities when he said he would focus on deporting criminals and that he wouldn’t break up families. But instead, we have two more broken campaign promises, and Mario Hernandez-Delacruz and his family, and many thousands like them, are suffering the devastating consequences. His deportation doesn’t strengthen America, it weakens us.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 9th District.

You can view the original op-ed here.