Trump Executive Order Takes Aim at Immigrants and Those Who Have a Conscience About All This

"Removable aliens" and how to remove them. That's the question, the problem, the thin end of the wedge, the slippery slope and just the beginning.It's what's in the second of President Donald Trump's three executive orders on immigration, the one meant to "enhance" the "interior security" of the country, that's caused all the concern, confusion and panic. And understandably so.The order sets "Enforcement Priorities," a prioritized list of the sorts of "removable aliens" the government wishes to remove. At the top of the list, very reasonably, are convicted criminals. But after that, things get a whole lot murkier.Prioritized are those who've been charged with crimes but who have not yet been convicted as well as those who've "committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense." Those who misrepresented themselves to a government agency or "abused" public benefits have also become prioritized "removable aliens." Most troubling, however, comes last in this list of the prioritized. The order calls for the removal of persons who in the "judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security."Now the problem with this should be clear: the vast and vague expansion of executive power and the consequent weakening of the judiciary and due process. The order calls for an increase of 10,000 more immigration officers, yet it doesn't call for an increase in immigration judges. Because of course they won't be needed; now we can remove "removable aliens" simply if it's in the "judgment of an immigration officer" to do so.The order also takes aim at those who might have a conscience about all this, those who might one day disagree with the judgment of some new immigration officer. It threatens civil fines and penalties against any who try to help those judged removable, "who facilitate their presence," the order reads. Lawyers, members of the clergy, ordinary good Samaritans: these and many more may all fall foul of this order someday. Especially if we question the discretion of some ICE agent, or if we act upon an ethics at odds with executive power.And the problem with this is that there's a darkness to it. It's an executive order born of a narrative of almost entirely fictional fear. And it reveals the character of an administration governed by fear. "No man can be fully known, in soul and spirit and mind," Sophocles wrote, "until he has been versed in rule and lawgiving." This executive order reveals for us the dark world and dark mind of this new administration, a world of frankly frightful fantasy.And that's what should really frighten us. This new world born of this new fear, a world of "invisible government," to quote political philosopher Hannah Arendt, a world of potentially unadjudicated disappearances and the coerced silence of those who might follow the ethics of the stranger. Michel Foucault taught us that it's the feature modern power to remain largely unseen. Which is exactly what we're seeing in this increase of executive power. And it's why it's foolishly insufficient simply to chalk all this up to a president's constitutional prerogative. It's also why this executive order, and the chaos in its wake, is (to quote Arendt yet again) "too ominous a sign to be passed under silence."And it's why (as I've said before) our most urgent ethical question remains, "Who is my neighbor?" It's the one question by which we may begin to menace this newly claimed power and to heal this new cancerous fear. It's a question that transcends our plainly broken politics, but which is still immediately political and even for us existential.Shall we be Americans or something else? Shall we be people who believe in inalienable rights, habeas corpus and due process, or shall we be people formed instead by fear? If someone in your church or in your neighborhood were suddenly gone, would you notice? If you saw someone being detained, would you care? These questions are all really the same question: Who's my neighbor? And it's the question we should ask ourselves again, and in fear of the truth.It's the first question of a truer populism. And it will better preserve our liberty and the tranquility of our union.Joshua J. Whitfield is pastoral administrator for St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas and a frequent columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Email:  Continue reading...

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