Journalist Harold Meyerson discusses the eerie similarities between fugitive slaves of America’s past and undocumented immigrants of today
The Trump administration’s directive for ICE to go into diverse populated cities, including sanctuary cities, with a mandate to find and apprehend undocumented immigrants is reminiscent of the Fugitive Slave Act of the American pre-Civil War era, according to journalist Harold Meyerson. As he explains, when the federal government permitted slave owners to enter northern cities in-order to recapture runaway slaves, resistance looked much like that of today’s sanctuary cities.
During this period, Northern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago protested actions of the federal government, under the sentiment that it was unjust to enter their communities to abduct slaves that had escaped to freedom. Similarly, Mayor Libby Schaaf of current-day Oakland, California took a stand recently against what she felt was an unjust incursion, and she forewarned the undocumented in her community about an imminent ICE raid. The raid resulted in 150 undocumented people being captured this past February.
Slave catchers also used the rhetoric of crime and danger, often denouncing runaway slaves as potential criminals who would degrade the North if left to be free. Today, ICE has been targeting high immigrant population centers often under the claim that it will lead to a safer society. President Trump himself constantly references faulty crime statistics, often invented on the spot, in order to paint undocumented immigrants as dangerous. Statistics, however, show that not only has violent crime gone down across the board, immigrants specifically commit crimes at lower rates than the general population.
There is no public safety concern that legitimizes the targeted raids of undocumented workers or the family separation policy, just as there was no legitimate reason to return fugitive slaves to the slaveholding states. There are many examples from our history that inform us of what happens when families are systematically torn apart. The impacts and the cost are overwhelmingly negative, and the effects are generational. The loss is devastating on the individual and the societal level, and damages the fabric of our country.
For more on this topic, please see Mr. Meyerson’s article here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-meyerson-immigration-fugitive-slave-20180301-story.html