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Must-Read Lawrence Downes in the LA Times “Republicans weaponized ‘amnesty’ to make undocumented immigrants suffer. Let’s take it back”

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Lawrence Downes, formerly an editorial writer for the New York Times, pens a must-read op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today: “Republicans weaponized ‘amnesty’ to make undocumented immigrants suffer. Let’s take it back.”

Downes writes like few others and has long captured the nuances of the immigration debate and the humanity of immigrants with rare beauty. Excerpts don’t do the piece full justice, so please read the whole thing. You will find a few of the must-read passages below:

Below are excerpts from Downes’ piece: “Republicans weaponized ‘amnesty’ to make undocumented immigrants suffer. Let’s take it back” 

America has moved on from arguing about unauthorized immigrants to brutalizing them, as a matter of federal policy.

The Trump administration has raided their homes and workplaces, hunted them down at the border, abused and neglected them in custody and prosecuted people who tried to rescue them in the desert. Tens of thousands of immigrants are trapped in a vast detention archipelago, and many are now exposed to the deadly coronavirus. Parents have been forced to choose between being detained indefinitely or giving their children up.

Under the cover of the pandemic, immigration and asylum laws are being ignored. And any form of federal aid is off-limits to undocumented immigrants — even those risking their lives as essential workers to keep others safe, fed and healthy during the crisis.

So, amnesty?

It takes a particular kind of perversity for Republican politicians to be flogging that word — and variants like “bailout” and “handout” — at a time when immigrants are struggling just to stay alive. This month, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced the No Bailouts for Illegal Immigrants Act, which blocks funding to states or municipalities that give stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants.

[Alabama Senate candidate] Coach Tuberville would call it running up the score. It is merciless.

All this comes out of a playbook that redefines “amnesty” to mean anything that might make life more secure or less miserable for the undocumented. Under this definition, the deferred-deportation DACA program for young immigrants, now before the Supreme Court, is amnesty. A farmworker bill is amnesty. The latest Democratic stimulus bill is amnesty, because it temporarily protects immigrants in essential industries from deportation and allows them to receive pandemic relief. 

…Amnesty is not a perfect word, and it’s been made toxic by right-wing forces. But it gets at something: the vast unpaid debt this country owes the undocumented. Amnesty is not on the table. But it should be. It’s the least this country can do.