Matthew T. Mangino: Immigration tip line rekindles dangerous era
Eighty years ago Winston Churchill was a lonely figure on the British home front, sounding the alarm about a growing menace in Europe — the Nazis. In October 1938 he gave a speech simulcast in England and the United States. The Defense of Freedom and Peace, also known as The Lights are Going Out speech, was an oratorical gem and made the case for standing up to Nazism.
One passage condemns the German authorities for promoting a culture “where children denounce their parents to the police, where a business man or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions — such a state of society cannot long endure.”
Does it matter what religion or ethnic group is the target?
President Donald Trump continues to aggressively enforced immigration laws and has instituted a zero tolerance policy for immigrants entering the U.S. without authorization. According to the Washington Post, more than 2,500 children were separated from their parents in a crackdown that has since been stopped by executive order.
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to take time to distinguish the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border from the ignominious conduct of the Nazis. When asked by Fox News host Laura Ingraham about comparisons between the immigrant detention facilities and Nazi concentration camps all Sessions could muster was, "Well, it's a real exaggeration, of course. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,"
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Trump administration has, capped the number of refugees the United States accepts at 45,000 — the lowest number since the refugee program was created in 1980; rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; barred entry from certain Muslim-majority countries; and ended temporary protected status for immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Sudan and Nicaragua.
"No administration in modern U.S. history has placed such a high priority on immigration policy or had an almost exclusive focus on restricting flows, legal and unauthorized alike, and further maximizing enforcement,” concluded the Migration Policy Institute.
The Trump administration’s laser focus on immigration has rekindled concerns trumpeted by Churchill three-quarters of a century ago.
In a nondescript brick office building in Williston, Vermont, a town of about 7,500 on the New York state border, the Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line does its thing. According to the VTDigger, a statewide news website that publishes government, politics and public policy reports, the tip line began in 2003 as an initiative designed to crack down on child predators. It has since expanded into a tip line for undocumented immigrants and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Data obtained by VTDigger shows that the number of ICE tips increased by 27 percent between 2016 and 2017. Tips received from across the country reviewed by Elisabeth Hewitt of VTDigger, revealed the following:
— A worker at a school called the tip line to report parents of children at the school. She reported them after she learned their undocumented status because she felt it was wrong for them to use public schools.
— An employee at a medical facility called to report a patient who did not have legal status. The patient had been receiving treatment for more than a year at the facility’s expense, according to the caller.
— A worker in a restaurant called to report his employer after he learned some of his coworkers did not have authorization to work in the country. He called in because he was forced to share some earnings with people he said were working illegally.
— A woman who was separated from her husband called to report him. She had known about his status for years. They were in a dispute over property.
A tip line that lets a competitor use the authority of the United States of America to eliminate a rival — harkens back to a tragic time in world history. America can, and must, do better.
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.