Sunday, June 17, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Deporting Luis Blanco was cruel

First, let’s get all the messy stuff out the way to spare some of you from writing indignant, outraged missives deploring the scourge of illegal immigration. Consider this reader customer service.

Was Luis Blanco in this country illegally? Yesiree.

Did the Plant City resident of 20 years deserve to get deported back to Mexico last week? No.

Is this assault on otherwise law-abiding, hard-working people stupid? You betcha.

The 42-year-old Blanco slipped across the border two decades ago for the same reason a vast majority of people seek to come to the United States — to pursue a better life for himself and his family. A crime? Perhaps. But a criminal? Hardly.

He was not here on an El Chapo scholarship. For years, Blanco worked harvesting tobacco and fruit. If you think he was stealing a job from American citizens, you try laboring in the fields sometime and see how long you last.

Blanco also worked in construction. Anything to provide for his family of six, all born here, all American citizens.

But a 2014 traffic offense proved to be Blanco’s undoing as it caught the attention of immigration officials. That was back during the Obama administration, however. Blanco received a humanitarian stay, which allowed him to remain and work in the United States as long as he renewed his paperwork every year. And he did.

As hunting down desperado fugitives goes, nabbing Blanco was a no-brainer. When he dutifully showed up to renew his documents allowing him to live in the country, he was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. And next thing Blanco knew he was sitting in the Krome Detention Center in Miami waiting to be deported to Mexico.

ICE eventually issued a statement, noting the agency has an obligation to enforce the immigration law "fairly and efficiently."

But what was remotely fair or efficient about Blanco’s deportation?

He had broken no laws while under humanitarian status. He was employed. He paid his taxes. And he complied with government rules to renew his humanitarian paperwork.

A few questions.

How does arresting and deporting a family’s breadwinner serve any useful purpose? Blanco had a job. He worked. He wasn’t burdening anyone.

How does a nation that gives lip service to honoring family values justify ripping apart a family? In fact Blanco’s wife, Lourdes Medrano, who is part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is expecting the couple’s seventh child — who will now be born without the presence of a father.

And how do you explain to Blanco’s children — not to mention the baby on the way — what their father did that was oh so evil to warrant being taken away in handcuffs after 20 years of living in the United States?

Blanco had a deal with the federal government. In return for his humanitarian status, if he played by the rules and stayed out trouble he would be allowed to remain in this country. He upheld his end of the bargain until the government reneged.

Even ICE has admitted its focus is supposed to be on "individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security." Based on that standard, it is hard to make a case that Luis Blanco, a Plant City father of six (soon to be seven), who worked in construction, represented any threat to anyone’s security, unless, of course, ICE sleuths had learned he was using too many serrano peppers in his salsa dip.

Blanco was not hiding in the shadows. You could certainly make the reasonable argument his dubiously titled humanitarian status should have afforded him a modicum of protection from deportation.

What now? Days ago Blanco was dumped at the Mexican border to make his way to Veracruz. What happens to his family? Clearly the U.S. government, whose symbol of Lady Liberty beckons to "give me your tired, your poor … yearning to breathe free," doesn’t care. No doubt the anti-immigrant voices in the United States were well pleased.

It is true there are plenty of less than honorable illegal immigrants who should be prime candidates to be sent back from whence they came. Fair enough.

But the law and compassion should not be mutually exclusive.

Immigration is a complex issue, overly simplified by inane, racist fear-mongering rants about bad hombres, rapists and murderers.

Luis Blanco was none of those things. He is a symbol of the wall of cruelty that has cast a shadow over the nation’s immigration debate.

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