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Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori spoke to the congregation at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Highlandtown Sunday following threats of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori spoke to the congregation at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Highlandtown Sunday following threats of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration. (Colin Campbell / Baltimore Sun)

President Donald Trump says he agreed to hold off on multi-city immigration raids to round up people without legal status in the United States to give Democrats and Republicans two weeks to come up with a comprehensive solution to the nation’s immigration problems. Don’t be fooled. He has no interest in actually reforming America’s immigration system on some kind of bi-partisan basis. All he wants to do is thrill his political base by conducting a systematic campaign of terror on immigrants.

That’s what it has amounted to in Baltimore and nine other cities that were reportedly due to be raided in the early morning hours on Sunday. Despite efforts of religious and community leaders to show support for immigrants and inform them of their rights should Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials try to take them into custody, many immigrant families were scared into hiding. Advocates in Miami reported “fear and chaos” among immigrant families. In Colorado, they fretted that President Trump’s sudden reversal on the raids was an attempt to “lull us into a false sense of security.” A Latino festival in Boulder was canceled because of the “very real announced threats.” In San Francisco, assurances of help from city officials did nothing to assuage immigrants’ anxiety; “they want us to be scared,” one told a local TV station. ““The effect is terror,” a Southern California immigration rights advocate told the L.A. Times. “We’re getting call after call after call. Even in Detroit, a city not among those on the ICE raid list, immigrants were scared to leave their homes over the weekend, even to go to church.

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It’s no coincidence that Mr. Trump announced his planned raid on Twitter on the eve of his re-election announcement last week, or that he amped up the terror far beyond what he could possibly have delivered. The president promised “millions” of deportations, though ICE officials (who were reportedly surprised by the president’s announcement) later said they were actually targeting about 2,000 families.

But the logistics of how many people ICE agents could actually take into custody, how many they could actually house or how many courts could process even on an expedited basis are unimportant next to the administration’s real goal of driving undocumented immigrants even deeper into the shadows. It’s of a piece with the Commerce Department’s push to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, an effort that, if the Supreme Court allows it, will prompt many immigrants, even some who are legally present in the country, to literally disappear from the population. And that’s exactly the point; in a new development that should come as no surprise, documents found on a now-deceased Republican redistricting strategist’s computer make clear that the point of the whole exercise is to drive down census participation by Hispanics in an effort to preserve more political power for Republican-leaning non-Hispanic whites.

President Trump speaks from the Oval Office in a prime-time address about border security Tuesday.

Stoking fear was at the heart of the sadistic family separation policy that the administration pursued before international outrage and horror finally shamed it into the merely inhumane warehousing of children in overcrowded, unsanitary detention facilities with inadequate food, blankets and adult supervision, as is occurring now. President Trump has lamented that treating undocumented immigrants, including asylum seekers, with anything less than cruelty is like an invitation to mass migration. “Once you don't have it, that's why you have many more people coming. They are coming like it's a picnic, like 'let's go to Disneyland,’” he said in April.

The president’s threat and reversal on raids bears obvious comparison to his decision last week to authorize military strikes on Iran and then to cancel them, but there’s one big difference. In that case, he says he was dissuaded from action once he learned of the human cost of his decision — as many as 150 Iranian casualties, which he considered disproportionate in response to the shooting down of an unmanned U.S. drone. But at no point has he expressed the slightest concern about the human cost of pounding on doors in American cities on a Sunday morning and rounding people up for deportation, likely splitting families apart and spreading fear through entire communities. Nor has he considered what is a proportionate response for people whose only crime, typically, is entering this country and trying to stay here. On the contrary, he promises his reign of terror has only just begun: Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”

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