Ripped Apart: A Real-Life Example of the Trump Administration's Deportation Policy
"It's just a devastating situation."
There's a sad, somber tone in Jacob Leonce's voice as he tries to smile. He looks much younger than his 45 years tell you he should look. He wears jeans and a long-sleeved white t-shirt, a casual dress compared to others around him. His skin is a shade of mocha, a reflexion of his Caribbean birth and upbringing. Seated beside him in church this morning sit his two sons, both under the age of 10. Like many their age, they wish they could be doing something else rather than sitting through a Sunday service. All they know is that their Dad wanted them to be there today.
Because this was no average Sunday service at the New England Pentecostal Church in Pelham, New Hampshire. This was a service dedicated to Jacob, an immigrant from the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia, who was facing imminent deportation. Despite community groups rallying to his cause, a campaign to raise awareness by his pastor Bishop Stanley Choate, and a group of nearly 30 community leaders who attended Jacob's most recent ICE check-in, there seemed to be little hope for Jacob. After having his stay of deportation appeal denied in December, Jacob knew that his time in the United States was limited. Despite the presence of multiple media outlets in attendance willing to share Jacob's story, there wasn't a whole lot that could be done for Jacob at the 11th hour.
Jacob is what this administration would refer to as a bad hombre. He came here on a sponsorship from the Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia in 1999. He is gainfully employed as a landscaper. He pays his taxes. He has no criminal record. He has a spouse and two children who are American citizens. He attends church and is active within his church community. As today's service showed, he is respected and admired by a congregation whose members openly embraced and wept for him when it was announced that today would be his last service. Despite his initial melancholy, Jacob became more and more animated as the service progressed and by the time he spoke at the end of the service, he confided that he believed his deportation was part of God's plan and he intended to embrace it.
And yet, despite all this, there are those who would still see Jacob as a criminal. It doesn't matter that he came here legally. It doesn't matter that he applied for and received an H1-B work Visa. It doesn't matter that he had three separate lawyers who promised they would help him attain citizenship but who ended up swindling him out of thousands of dollars. It doesn't matter that he speaks flawless English. It doesn't matter that a previous employer turned him over to ICE rather than face penalties for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. It doesn't matter that Jacob first came on ICE's radar for a case of mistaken identity when a police officer was looking for someone who fit Jacob's description. And it doesn't matter that should Jacob be deported, his family will lose their only source of income and two young boys will lose their father.
In short, this is the antithesis of what Republicans want you to see when you think of an undocumented immigrant. Yet for ICE, it doesn't matter. Their one-size-fits-all approach to deportations has no rhyme or reason. They've taken an Arizona mother during her required check-in. They deported a Detriot man who lived in this country for 30 years. They deported a New Jersey man who helped rebuild homes after Hurricane Sandy. ICE has even attempted to deport a ten-year-old Mexican girl and a Polish doctor who has lived in this country for 40 years. This administration is not targeting rapists and thieves as was promised to its nativist base. Instead, it is picking off those who do good for their communities. Because for this administration heavily influenced by Stephen Miller, all undocumented immigrants are criminals regardless of the positive impact they have in their communities.
For a party that once claimed to be supportive of family values, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of concern for the breaking up of families and communities. But that is by design. Republican immigration policy would love nothing more than to remove all non-Norweign immigrants. This is their chance to do it. By going after people like Jacob, Republicans are sending a message that non-White, English-speaking immigrants are no longer welcome here. They are to be deported, regardless of their religion, job, marital status, or children. They weren't going to vote Republican so there really is no risk in deporting them anyway. All that matters for this administration is the ability to move our country toward a more Nordic-like demographic makeup.
And to move our country away from the diversity that has made it great.
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