Just a day before the D-Day anniversary, a very different kind of assault occurred in Sandusky and Castalia, where some 200 federal immigration agents carried out a surprise helicopter-led raid on two flower and garden centers. The 114 individuals they arrested weren’t violent criminals, gang members or any threat to garden-center customers. They were just seasonal workers.
What’s going on here?
Let me tell you what I see. I see businesses that depend on seasonal workers, especially as our record low unemployment has led to a serious labor shortage. I see a patchwork guest-worker program that can’t keep pace with employer demand and that fails to prevent exploitation of the workers.
And at the heart of it all, I’ve watched our Congress do nothing for years, and then wage a bruising civil war over immigration policy. Throughout, Republican legislators have held hostage 800,000 young “Dreamers,” those undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children who were accepted into the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. All the while these legislators have flexed their muscles and talked tough about a variety of harsh anti-immigrant measures. For years those in control of Congress worked overtime to block efforts at compromise and to fight any reasonable attempt to fix our broken system.
So, we’ve been left with laws that should have been reformed years ago amidst differing views on how to enforce them. But what we’re seeing today is frankly un-American. Workers are being hauled off in busses, with their children left stranded in day care. Military tactics, violence, and intimidation are being used to detain people whose only crime is working hard to support their families.
This week we recalled the 1944 surprise assault on Normandy, a daring military maneuver marked by heroism and honor. The surprise raids at Sandusky and Castalia, in contrast, bring dishonor on us, but especially to congressional leaders who not only tolerate these tactics, but welcome them.
Those leaders, and our congressman in particular, have engaged in a cynical game of pretend — pretending that we can solve our immigration problem by sealing an unsealable border; pretending that harsh, punitive measures work; and pretending that throwing more and more money at walls, border agents, and detention facilities will produce real change. Some may have found those ideas persuasive.
But let’s be honest. When violence, intimidation, and ripping families apart have become acceptable governmental practices, we surely have to admit that we've drifted into a moral fog in which our leaders have lost sight of fundamental American values.
We are, of course, finally starting to hear talk of movement in the House of Representatives on immigration legislation. Frankly, it’s sparked by nervousness among many Republican members about November’s elections. Suddenly they’re saying “something must be done” about the “Dreamers.” We certainly must lift the threat of deportation from these young peoples’ shoulders. But we must do much, much more. And it can’t just be “something.” We must bring about real immigration reform and put a halt to military assaults on Ohio businesses and their seasonal workers. And we must stop conducting massive armed raids that separate children from their parents.
The bottom line is that what we really need is a problem-solving Congress. A “just do something, anything” Congress just won’t cut it! But that’s what the November elections will be all about.
In the meantime, watch out for more garden-center raids.
Janet Garrett is the Democratic candidate in the race to represent for Ohio’s 4th Congressional district, which includes Norwalk and northern Huron County. She is running against incumbent Jim Jordan (R-Urbana)