This is not intended to be a thorough discussion of National Security and immigration. It is only to raise awareness of how certain deportations could negatively effect our community here in Cowlitz County.
There have been several instances of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers being spotted in Cowlitz County the last few days which has many undocumented residents of our county nervous. I understand the issue of immigration and national security are very important. I don’t take these issues lightly. The reason I am writing is to offer my experience as a pastor who knows some undocumented residents personally and who has concerns of how some deportations of undocumented immigrants could affect our county and other counties like ours.
First, it is important to point out that many undocumented immigrants in our county did not initially come here illegally. Many undocumented men and women came to the country through proper legal channels, with the understanding that they would be able to live in the United States temporarily. However, after coming here, life happened. They fell in love, in some cases got married, and in some cases had children. While marriage can increase a person’s likelihood of getting permanent legal resident status it is far from certain. Even with marriage, many were not granted this status.
Thus, many of our undocumented immigrants in Cowlitz County are in families of mixed legal status. One spouse might be a legal resident or citizen while the other spouse is undocumented. Most often, children of these unions are US citizens because they were born in the United States.
This presents a very difficult situation for families. If the undocumented person returns to their country of origin to try and fix their status legally, there is no telling how long it will take them to return or if they will even be allowed to return at all. It is understandable that many undocumented people would not want to take that risk.
On the other hand, if a person in that situation were to stay in the United States and try to go through proper legal channels, there could also be some issues. First of all, this can be a very expensive process, and sadly not all immigration attorneys are reliable. Second of all, by coming forward they are “outing” themselves as an undocumented resident which they do not want to do either.
With this in mind, I want to try to help you understand that many of the undocumented people in Cowlitz County are in a very tight spot morally and legally speaking. The undocumented immigrants I know don’t want to break our nation’s immigration laws. They aren’t proud of the fact that they are undocumented. But they also don’t want to take risks that could separate them from their spouse or from their children or the American way of life that they have come to love. I don’t know about you, but I think these anxieties are very understandable.
If, in the course of events, it turns out that these undocumented immigrants are deported it would undoubtedly lead to greater problems in our county. If an undocumented person is deported it could lead to more cases of single parent families, and the effects of single parent families are well known.
If a child’s father or mother gets deported and they find themselves in a single parent family that child has a greater likelihood of doing poorly in school, committing crimes, and engaging in dangerous behavior such as promiscuity or drug and alcohol use. Those things hurt society more than an undocumented immigrant trying to live a good honest life. Furthermore, that would put a greater strain on our nation's resources.
I don’t know if deporting the people I’ve discussed above is the president’s intention or not (he says he wants to deport criminals, but he has been less clear if he considers every single undocumented person a criminal). I hope it isn’t, because if splitting up families is what he winds up doing, the damage it will do in a place like Cowlitz County could be severe. Cowlitz County would be better served if these families were given an opportunity to come forward and identify themselves and have recourse to receiving legal immigration status without putting the stability of their family at risk.
I encourage you to tell your elected officials that we want what's best for families.
UPDATE: Schools, Churches, and Hospitals are considered "Sensitive Locations" and ICE officials will not rune any operations near these facilities unless there is a serious life and death threat. It is important we communicate that Churches and Schools are safe places for all members of the community.