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Immigrants Are Not Undesirable Criminals

During his campaign and after he became president, Trump has unfortunately changed the narrative by linking immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, to rapists, murderers, terrorists and job stealers. Trump has exploited the crimes committed by a few immigrants to link all of them to criminal activity. The fact that a person may have crossed the border illegally does not make them a criminal with a tendency to commit even more crimes in the United States. While we undoubtedly sympathize with the victims of such crimes, it is morally reprehensible to taint all immigrants with the conduct of a very few. The criminal justice system can effectively punish perpetrators of all crimes, whether they may be immigrants or US citizens.  Most immigrants are hardworking and honest, trying to make a better lives for themselves, while also benefiting the United States. They are also valiantly trying to legalize their status in an immigration system that urgently needs an upgrade. Indeed, a Cato Institute report establishes that immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, commit lesser crimes than native Americans.

Some in the media have latched onto this false narrative to further sensationalize the issue. When I was invited to debate Tucker Carlson on Fox News on March 27, 2017 I accepted believing it is important for an immigration attorney to speak out loudly and boldly, no matter how ruthless the TV host may be.While Carlson may limit the conflation to crimes with undocumented immigrants, this has the tendency to extend to even legal immigrants as exemplified in Trump’s travel ban. Nationals of the countries affected in the ban are people entering the United States legally as students, temporary workers or as refugees,  but they are still considered suspect as the Trump’s travel ban directly links to nationals of Muslim majority countries suspected of terrorism.  This sort of stereotyping is not just false, but it is also extremely dangerous. A few weeks ago, a US citizen killed an Indian engineer who was legally in the United States on an H-1B visa under the false perception that he was a dangerous immigrant. By Carlson’s logic, the immigrant would not have committed a crime if he or she had not been let into the United States in the first place. But how do you determine this in advance as to who will commit a crime in the future? Does this  mean that our entire immigration system has to shut down?  Or do we no longer take in people fleeing persecution to prevent risking one of them or one of their descendants from committing a crime in the future, even though America is known as the beacon of hope for the persecuted? Is there a way to determine whether one born in the United States will be the next Timothy McVeigh or Adam Lanza?

We can only hope that this virulent fever in America breaks soon because it goes against the long cherished notion that America is nation of immigrants.

Watch the clip below:

Protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban Through Art: An Immigration Lawyer’s Perspective

There are many ways to protest Trump’s travel ban, also known as the Muslim ban. Lawyers have successfully sued against the ban in the courts. People protested at airports in an unprecedented and spontaneous manner. Art can also be a powerful form of protest against the ban.  The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has also joined the protests by displayng works of artists from the banned countries among other iconic works of art in its permanent collection. One has to go through the galleries housing the permanent collection to serendipitously come across the work of an artist from a banned country, which in the age of Trump, have also attained iconic status. Art is able to inspire the lawyer in protesting the ban. Trump’s exclusion of an entire people from a banned country casts all of them as terrorists, including the artist. This is both legally wrong and morally shameful.

These are three of my favorites among the works of the artists from the banned countries at the MOMA. I have also included at the end the works of two artists from my own very modest art collection. I am happy to possess these works, which have always been beautiful, but resonate more powerfully today. They inspire me as I protest Trump’s ban.

Charles Hossein Zenderoudi – born in Iran

Ibrahim el- Salahi - born in Sudan

Ibrahim el- Salahi – born in Sudan

Parviz Tanavoli – born in Iran

 

These are two works from my own collection, the first which I acquired in 1993 and the second in 2010.

 

Reza Derakshani – born in Iran

Mary Yahya – born in Iraq