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Tribune Editorial: ICE should stick to the criminals and leave our families alone

First Published      Last Updated May 07 2017 01:51 pm

Silvia Avelar-Flores is not a criminal. She is a mother, a wife and a friend. She is a Utahn. But she is no criminal.

Overstaying a visa does not make someone a criminal. It is a civil infraction. Like speeding. Or not shoveling your sidewalk.

Why, then, did U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest her in a parking lot, while her 8-year-old daughter watched, put her in a county jail and prepare her for deportation to Mexico? Because her parents brought her to this country when she was 7, and they stayed. And she had not yet applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection.




President Obama created the DACA program in 2012 to protect from deportation noncriminal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Immigrants with DACA protection can legally reside and work in the United States.

Facing increased questioning concerning his immigration plan, President Trump recently said that members of the DACA program should, "Rest easy. OK?" And the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the agency was not targeting DACA immigrants. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that "everyone who enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported." These conflicting statements have immigrants on edge.

Utah's approach to immigration has been unique. The Utah Compact set an example for what immigration policy could accomplish nationwide. Principles of the Compact include a recognition that local police should not be used to enforce federal law, that immigrants are valuable members of society and that breaking up families will only destabilize communities.

Utah was also a forerunner in issuing undocumented immigrants driving licenses. And Utah's recent support of the refugee plight further solidifies Utah's welcoming attitude toward immigrants.

With these uniquely Utah principles, immigrant families in Utah should be feeling comfortable. Tell that to Avelar-Flores' family.

In protest to her arrest and detention, community members rallied on Wednesday in front of the Department of Homeland Security office in West Valley City. After almost a week in the Cache County Jail, she miraculously received a temporary stay of her deportation order. She was released on Thursday evening into the loving, and scared, arms of her family.

So was the case of Avelar-Flores an anomaly? A story of an overly eager ICE officer? It is hard to know. But one thing is certain: We don't need ICE officers searching out and arresting our mothers and fathers, sisters and friends.

Stick to the criminals, and leave our families alone.

 

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