By no standard of common sense or decency should Guadalupe García de Rayos have been a priority for deportation. Ms. Rayos, a 35-year-old mother of two, was arrested on Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Phoenix. On Thursday she was deported to Mexico, a country she left 21 years ago. Her devastated family, including her American-born children, remains in the United States.
President Trump persists in the absurd claim that America will be safe and great again only after an assault on “bad dudes” and “criminal aliens,” whom he has promised to arrest and remove by the millions.
But Ms. Rayos fits no such definition and was no threat, though she had been living in the United States illegally since she was 14. She had been known to the authorities since she was caught in a workplace raid in Phoenix in 2008. In the years since, she would check in regularly with immigration officials, who chose not to deport her, having more important things to do.
Mr. Trump ran for office promising to eliminate such discretion and replace it with heedless and pointless enforcement. His campaign amplified the nativist passions of his supporters and hard-line advisers, including the man who is now his right hand in the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
What was always most alarming about Mr. Trump’s posturing on immigration wasn’t the wall, which will never be built in the way he describes it. It is instead the prospect of ramped-up enforcement that promises to increase misery on both sides of the border. The criminalizing of law-abiding immigrants who have lived in the United States for years, and of the migrants from Central America who arrive desperate for refuge. The households sundered, the jobs lost, the brutal idiocy of it all.
Mr. Trump, or the ideologues who speak into his ear and guide his pen, came up with executive orders the first week of his presidency that vastly expanded the universe of potential deportation targets to include anyone found guilty of any offense, no matter how old or minor, and people accused of crimes but not convicted. The orders sweep away the priorities set by President Barack Obama and his homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, under which agents were told to focus strictly on public-safety risks.
Mr. Trump’s federal force, especially if it re-enlists state and local law enforcement agencies in a widening immigration dragnet, threatens to return America to a disgraceful era of workplace raids, indiscriminate sweeps and mass arrests. This will fix nothing, except perhaps the bottom lines in the private prison industry.
It is time to watch closely what Mr. Trump says, and what he and his administration do. Watch Mr. Sessions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol, agencies with rogue officers who have abused immigrants and broken the law, and local law enforcement, like the Phoenix police, whose officers abetted ICE in subduing protesters who tried to block Ms. Rayos’s removal.
Where does hope lie? Perhaps in the courts, where judges have resisted unconstitutional anti-immigrant policies. (reinstatement of Mr. Trump’s travel ban from certain predominantly Muslim countries was blocked by a federal appeals court on Thursday.) Certainly, hope lies on the ground: Arizona has a seasoned, scarred but ferociously determined corps of immigrant-rights advocates and lawyers who have seen these battles before, under the recently ousted immigrant brutalizer of Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The state has journalists who have covered the lies, the boasting, the abuses of power by anti-immigrant demagogues.
Mr. Trump faces other serious obstacles. He is worrying the agriculture industry, which is heavily dependent on workers Mr. Trump calls criminals. The immigration courts are already vastly overburdened, even before a Trump-led onslaught of cases. And a growing constellation of so-called “sanctuary” cities, towns and states are pledging not to cooperate in the president’s crackdown. Their resistance will be formidable.
But for countless innocent immigrant families, the hard question is what to do now. Advocates were mobilizing on Thursday night after reports of scores of immigration arrests across the country, from Southern California to Texas. Ms. Rayos’s lawyer, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said immigrants should realize that what happened to her could easily happen to them. He suggested they use great caution in dealing with ICE, and consider the possibility of seeking sanctuary in a church.