What Kind of Country are We?

What Kind of Country Are We?

That question was repeatedly posed last week by immigrant activists addressing a standing room only crowd of Dreamers and their allies at a church on Capitol Hill.   Indeed it’s a question that reverberates throughout the debate on immigration.   We often think of this question in terms of whether we are a country that welcomes diversity and celebrates our immigrant roots or whether we are a country driven by fear of the “other”, be it someone of a different race, religion or gender.   Increasingly, however, this question also touches on how we enforce our immigration laws.  Are we a country that values due process and puts the rule of law over the rule of individual men and women?    

Lately, it  seems we are a country that does not.  From lying to immigrants about their true intentions when they come knocking at their doors to detaining immigrants who have been routinely checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), without notice in front of their children, it seems that  ICE is becoming a law unto itself.   ICE appears to relish the fact that it has been given a green light to sow as much terror as possible in immigrant communities, confident that no one will hold them accountable.

One recent example of this attitude is the case of Amer Othman Adi, a man who had resided in the United States for nearly 40 years, a pillar of his community, with a U.S. citizen wife and four U.S. citizen daughters. Adi was recently deported despite the efforts of many supporters, including Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. While the circumstances of his deportation are heartbreaking, one facet of his story is particularly troublesome because it seems to reflect a new level of cruelty on the part of ICE.  

Mr. Adi had been told last September that he would be deported on January 7.  According to news accounts, Mr. Adi and his wife sold their home in preparation to depart the country on January 7.  ICE was to meet them at the airport and cut off Mr. Adi’s ankle monitor before he boarded a plane to Jordan.  But then ICE told Mr. Adi told that the deportation order had been cancelled.   However, just days later, Mr. Adi was detained without warning when he went for his regular ICE check in.  As a result, he was deprived of the opportunity to depart the country with his dignity intact.  Instead, he was jailed and put on a plane without the chance  to say goodbye to his family.  

Why put Mr. Adi through this additional humiliation?  Why add to the pain his family was already suffering?   These are the questions ICE will never have to answer under the current administration.

But the rest of us don’t get off so easily.  What kind of a country are we?