My father is a USF alumnus, graduating in 2016 with a Master of Science in Financial Analysis. He has lived in the Bay Area for over thirty years. He was also an unauthorized migrant in this country for over a decade before becoming a U.S. resident in 1996 and then a citizen in 2017.
My father is the main reason why I don’t support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) latest plan to sweep Northern California cities in an effort to detain at least 1,500 undocumented immigrants. The operation, which is expected to begin within the month, will be disastrous for hundreds, if not thousands, of undocumented residents living in Northern California, not to mention their families as well.
Luckily for undocumented people in the area, both the SFPD and Oakland City Council have taken a stand against ICE and a stand for undocumented immigrants. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that officials from SFPD have stated that they will not be assisting ICE. The Oakland City Council has taken this stance even further by prohibiting any officers from providing so much as traffic control to the federal agency. Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, responded that if local officials “don’t want to protect their communities then ICE will.”
It seems that the irony of his statement is lost on him. The SFPD and the Oakland City Council have a much clearer vision on what it means to “protect their communities” than Homan could ever hope to have. Homan aims to “protect” Northern California, but from whom? Is the goal to protect us from immigrant criminals? How interesting, then, that in August of last year, PolitiFact found that American-born California residents are incarcerated at a rate that is 2.5 times higher than it is for illegal immigrants. On top of that, the study found that native residents are overrepresented in California prisons relative to their population, while immigrants are underrepresented by the same metric. Although, I doubt that Homan’s noble crusade leaves him any time to waste on such trivial facts.
While these studies can’t be taken as conclusive proof that illegal immigrants commit less crimes than American citizens, they give strong evidence to suggest that, at the very least, they don’t commit more crimes than their documented counterparts. So, I ask again: what exactly is Homan aiming to protect us from? What ICE calls “protection” looks more like a witch hunt than anything else.
The SFPD and the Oakland City Council are absolutely right to give ICE the cold shoulder. As the son of a former illegal immigrant, I am more proud than ever to be a Bay Area resident. Local officials are sticking to their values and taking the proper measures to actually protect their communities, which include citizens and undocumented immigrants alike.
The SFPD’s stance on the issue brings to mind their official motto – “Oro en paz, fierro en guerra,” which translates to “Gold in peace, iron in war.” The motto represents both the progressive, compassionate nature of the city (gold) and its steely fortitude (iron). The SFPD demonstrated its compassion and loyalty in service of the residents they are sworn to protect, citizens or not. In the same vein, it has shown ICE their “iron” and unwavering resolve. What a pity it is, though, that city governments understand what it means to represent our nation’s ideals better than the federal government itself.
Despite the efforts of the SFPD and Oakland City Council, ICE’s upcoming operation will undoubtedly have huge consequences for many people. I can’t help but wonder: what would have happened if ICE had existed in the 80s? What would have happened if they had authorized a Northern California sweep like the forthcoming one?
My father would most likely have been deported. He never would have become the exemplary citizen that he is now and I never would have been born. Luckily for me, the worst I can experience is a chilling, speculative thought. How many potential citizens may never come to be, simply because ICE chose to deport their would-be fathers or mothers? A harrowing thought for me, a harsh reality for so many.