Knopf: Criminal acts against immigrants (column) | SummitDaily.com

Knopf: Criminal acts against immigrants (column)

Susan Knopf
Guest column

You are an immigrant. If your family came over on the Mayflower, you are a descendant of immigrants. If you are Native American, it is widely held you came across the land bridge. You are the descendant of an immigrant. The idea that I'm here now, but we will no longer welcome "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" is callous, unthinkable, inhumane, un-American.

Our ancestors came here looking for something better. They sought religious freedom; they sought food; they sought safety. Today, so-called illegal immigrants embark on journeys of immense danger to escape even more horrific perils in their countries of origin. No one wants to leave their home. A person does so because there is no other choice. The immigrants who risk their lives today pay "coyotes" thousands of dollars. They seek asylum. Asylum seekers are not criminals; they are not "illegals." Fleeing gang violence does not make you a criminal; it makes you a victim of crime.

What we are doing to these victims is criminal.

So why are we criminalizing immigration? There are basically two arguments — security and economics. Let's start with security. Our intelligence agencies have detected there has been some cooperative efforts between Islamic terrorists and the drug cartels who traffic in people and drugs south of the border. Tunnels are a preferred method to smuggle from Mexico to the US. That's why Trump's wall is such a dumb idea.

Building a wall to insure our security is as archaic as Trump switching from Twitter to telegrams. It will not work. Tunnels go under walls, rendering the wall ineffective. But there's a very good reason Trump wants to build a wall. It's the same reason he's ratcheting up useless criminalization of immigration and detaining thousands in camps. Profiteers. Building a wall, and detention camps make lucrative contracts for a select few.

On the subject of economics, experts do not generally share the populist point of view that immigration costs us money. Immigrants contribute more to the economy that they cost, according to multiple economic analyses. The issue is the metrics are very complex, difficult to track and can be spun different ways depending on the point of view you want to advance. Bottom line, unskilled workers crossing the border to escape gang violence and poverty are no real threat to American workers. There are far more low paying manual labor jobs than there are workers to fill the positions. When these immigrants come basically with the shirts on their backs, they come here and buy everything. They drive a consumer economy and pay taxes. So why would we want to deprive ourselves of these economic drivers? Why do we want to criminalize immigration which historically has been shown to be the driver of our unique growing economy? Money. Money for profiteers. If you want to understand the problem, just follow the money.

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Would it surprise you to know that "zero tolerance" policy of the Trump administration has almost nothing to do with immigration? It is a make rich program for those companies who process and house so-called illegals, who are really asylum seekers. Seeking asylum is not a crime. The profiteers are the criminals.

Southwest Key has received $1.5 billion in federal dollars to house migrants according to the Dallas Morning News. According to The Nation, Southwest Key, a so-called non-profit, will receive $458 million to house detained immigrant children.

Open Secrets.org says ICE has spent $4 billion since the start of the 2017 fiscal year on contracts to counter immigration.

CNBC online reports the GEO Group donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Trump aligned super PAC. GEO is one of the country's largest private prison companies. After Trump's election, the company's stock soared; and this year the stock gained more than 8 percemt, according to CNBC.

ICE says it costs almost $135 per night to detain an adult. Homeland Security said the tent cities cost $775 per person per night to house a detainee. Multiply those numbers times two years, or four. That's how long it can take to process an asylum seeker though the system.

How's that helping us? At an Ohio meat packing plant, 146 people were arrested. ICE claimed it is the largest round up of "illegals" in US history. I guess everyone who usually receives meat processed at the plant, is so happy to know their orders won't be filled.

What costs us money is herding immigrants into detention centers, housing, feeding, and clothing them. Then there are the judicial costs. Hearings, motions that can go on for years. Would you rather have that immigrant working, buying goods and services contributing to the economy and paying taxes? Or would you rather pay to support this person while they spend two to four years moving through the system?

Let's be clear, what makes these workers illegal? Our immigration laws, which we could change, and stop rounding up hard working folks doing hard jobs, most Americans don't want to do. The great irony of this program is, this is indubitably not only the least humane, but also the most expensive way to process immigrants.

Here's a thought. I'm really tired of people telling me their families came here legally. My family bought passage across the Atlantic. I have never heard a single version of this story that included waiting for papers. Here is wild thought. What if we determined a realistic number of people we can admit daily? We identify them. We issue identification numbers and instead of making them wait five years to apply for citizenship, we require them to apply for citizenship in two years, or ask them to leave. We want people who want to be here.

Let me tell you what's wrong with Trump's proposed merit-based immigration program. Currently computer techs from foreign countries are being imported by big American tech companies so they can get away with paying these people much less than Americans would get paid for the same jobs. I personally had a friend with a Ph.D. who could not get a new job after her company was acquired by a European pharmaceutical company. At the same time, I knew a Scotsman in our same town who was doing the very job she was seeking. So merit-based immigration really doesn't bring us the best, it just allows big business to cherry pick cheaper workers from overseas. And that approach really does cost American jobs. Why not allow aspirational and oppressed people to come here? Let them do the low paying jobs few Americans want to do. These are the same jobs our immigrant ancestors were doing when they first got here. A century ago or perhaps just a generation ago, our families started at the bottom and worked their way up. These new immigrants will do the same.

If we want to do something…let's disrupt the drug cartels which are forcing people out of their own countries. Let's stop wasting our limited resources on trying to stop the the tide which is controlled by forces beyond our control. Let's harness the tide to benefit us.

Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident, and a contributor to the Summit Daily. Susan has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.