Editorial: Iraqis facing deportation should be allowed to stay

  • Written by:

The Detroit News U.S. Representatives (from left) Andy Levin, Brenda Lawrence and Rashida Tlaib listen during a meeting concerning the Iraqi deportations at the Chaldean Community Center on Saturday, April 6, 2019. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

With 12 million immigrants living illegally in this country, it’s hard to understand the Trump administration’s intense focus on 1,400 Iraqi nationals, most of whom came to the United States legally but then got crossways of the law. The Iraqis, including 114 from Michigan, face deportation to Iraq after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside a lower court ruling barring their detention. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency says the Iraqis present a danger to their adopted communities. And some may. But most have lived in America for a long time, committed crimes and served the sentences they were given. Instead of being released to resume their old lives, however, ICE is seeking to send them back to Iraq, where most no longer have family ties. The bulk of the potential deportees are Christians and would face religious persecution in Iraq. If there are murderers and child predators on the list, as ICE claims, certainly they should be sent packing. As should those who continue to break the law. America has no responsibility to allow guests to abuse its hospitality. But most are not serious offenders — some were locked up for marijuana dealing. They’ve paid their price. It would be easy for the courts to assess whether they remain dangerous. Those who aren’t should be allowed to rejoin their families and the productive lives they were living before being rounded up by ICE. On a brighter immigration note, the administration is nearly doubling the number of H-2B visas it grants to foreigners who want to come to the United States to work summer jobs. The tourism and agricultural industries depend on these temporary employees. Last summer, some northern Michigan resorts were not able to fully open because of worker shortages, and farmers reported letting crops rot in the fields because they couldn’t hire enough labor to pick them. With unemployment at near record lows, many employers are starving for help, particularly in entry level jobs. The temporary visas allow them to hire summer workers who will return home in the fall. These laborers, mostly from Mexico and Central America, present no burden to this country. Rather, they contribute mightily to the U.S. economy. The Trump administration agreed to add 33,000 H-2B visas to the 30,000 it already approved. Even that may not be enough. With the economy still expanding, the demand for employees is exceeding the domestic supply. Issuing temporary visas to meet employment needs not only keeps resorts and farms going, it also helps trim illegal immigration.