This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Last week, Silvia Avelar-Flores ran to the craft store with her 8-year-old daughter to pick up supplies for a birthday party. There, an ICE officer who had been stalking her I mean "surveilling" her for three days arrested her in the parking lot. Her infraction? Overstaying a visa her parents got when she was 7.
It's just cruel.
The rhetoric from the White House is that ICE agents are looking for the "bad hombres" like rapists and drug dealers, but in fact more than 5,000 people with nothing more than a traffic infraction and some not even that have been deported in the two months following Trump's inauguration.
Shortly after the first travel ban issued by President Trump, a White House official spoke with the Los Angeles Times and said that the administration was focused on getting the "bad guys."
"We've gone from a situation where ICE officers have no discretion to enhance public safety and their hands are totally tied," the official said, "to allowing ICE officers to engage in preventative policing and to go after known public safety threats and stop terrible crimes from happening."
What "preventative policing" is served by arresting a mother of young children?
Silvia's plight got the attention of several new political networks in Utah, including Mormon Women for Ethical Government, Action Utah and Utah Indivisible, all created since election day last year and, to my delight, heavily composed of women.
They held a rally, issued press releases, sent emails, made phone calls, worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch's office, specifically Sharon Garn, an immigration advocate for many years, and they prayed. Late yesterday afternoon, word came that Silvia would be released from the Cache County Jail while her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application wends its way through the system.
Thank heavens some sanity prevailed in this case. But Silvia is just one of thousands who live in Utah, contribute to our communities, pay taxes into our state coffers and who now know they are not safe to live normal lives.
When I was in the Legislature in 2011 and discussing immigration in Utah, I got lots of hate mail, threats of physical violence and even death threats for supporting the guest worker bill. I also got heartfelt letters from young people going to school in my district, telling me about their family, the jobs they held and the way they contributed to our community. I heard stories horrible stories of people playing "Catch the Mexican with Pit Bulls" in farmers' fields, knowing the victims would not report it, of bosses who hired undocumented workers, then refused to pay them, of "shake-downs" by "bad hombres" and of people dying because those around them were afraid to call for help. That bill, which required accountability, was a step towards helping an entire population come forward out of the shadows and live free of fear.
Now, Silvia and others like her will live under a darkening cloud of fear. Fear of going to the grocery store or the craft store. Fear of reporting crimes, fear of getting appropriate health care because someone might report them. Fear of sending their children to school. To top it off, they are now more likely to be victimized by the "bad hombres."
For those who say, "What part of illegal do you not understand," I would ask, "How many laws did you break today?" Do you even know? For me, I commit an infraction pretty much every time I drive on I-15 and since I drive the speed of traffic around me, it's clear I am not the only one.
Maybe I could just ask, "What part of compassion do you not understand?"
Holly Richardson is a former state Republican legislator and political blogger who is glad she does not have to fear ending up dismembered under a bridge somewhere just for sharing her opinions.