Compass Academy Student Column: Increase opportunities for immigrants

Rather than detaining and deporting, we should have centers for assessment, reintegration and naturalization of immigrants, writes Samuel Jacobs.

In America, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, is in charge of the detainment and deportation of illegal immigrants.

According to the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 removal activities, ICE conducted 240,255 removals. This number is down from the end of President Obama’s first term where the numbers reached to 409,849 removals.

With such a large number, one has to ask if this is really the best solution. As a resident of Idaho and an American citizen I call for a major change within ICE. This reform will include increased opportunity for naturalization, and discreditation of deportation as the first option.

In 2015, according to the American Immigration Council, Idaho had over 90,000 immigrants.

Approximately 13 percent of all the residents of Idaho either were immigrants or had an immigrant parent. Those statistics only include the documented immigrants.

It is estimated that there are about 45,000 undocumented immigrants. This number would make up 42 percent of the total immigrant population and 2.7 percent of the total Idaho population.

That is a lot of people, and a lot of jobs. When these people leave, it leaves ripples throughout our communities and economy. These are hardworking members of society. People who make money and buy groceries to provide for themselves and their families.

At some point, we have to ask ourselves why it is so important we remove these hard working people. As a society we need hard working people. That is why I propose a call upon ICE to change.

I suggest that we remake ICE detainment centers into centers for assessment, reintegration and naturalization of immigrants. This would reduce the impact that deportation has on our economy.

Obviously, nothing is as clear cut as that. One of ICE’s main goals is to detain and remove immigrants convicted of crimes. Why should they be allowed to stay? Given that environment and circumstances may affect a person’s actions, I believe that immigrants convicted of minor crimes, determined by a judge, should be given the chance to be “let on parole” in a sense.

I’d suggest that people would be assigned a caseworker, similar to a parole officer, to monitor, check in and assist the immigrant on their way to becoming a productive member of society.

I believe that with these changes, we could reduce the costs spent annually in detention and deportation. By helping these people, we allow them the chance they never got, a chance to do things right. We allow these people the chance to be treated as people, as people who are proud, productive and brave. By allowing these changes, we speak out against discrimination and say, as a people, that we believe in equal opportunities. We give these people the equal opportunity they worked so hard to find. We say yes to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We say yes to the freedom that more than 1.1 million Americans have given their lives in combat to ensure. We say yes to what’s right.

Samuel Jacobs is a junior at Compass Academy. He is interested in music, particularly violin and guitar. He enjoys psychology and desires to attend University of Idaho.