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Cruelty toward immigrants has been the defining theme of Donald Trump’s presidency

“We need a president who has moral clarity and embodies our country’s values – who knows that tearing families apart is inherently un-American.”
U.S. Senator and candidate for president.
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. Crédito: John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump launched his first campaign by vilifying immigrants as “rapists” – so it’s only fitting that he’s kicking off his reelect with the heinous announcement that he will direct his administration to begin mass deportations.

Four years after Donald Trump began his now-infamous escalator descent, it has become clear that there is no bottom.

The president’s vile plan to round up millions of immigrants harkens back to the darkest chapters of our history. Quite frankly, I don’t know whether or not he’ll follow through with it – but make no mistake: President Trump’s words alone inflict real pain and have real effects.

The real effect is that law-abiding immigrants will be pushed deeper into the shadows. The real effect is that there will be some woman who’s afraid to wave down a patrol car after she’s been raped for fear of being deported. The real effect is that there will be kids who refuse to go to school tomorrow because they’re terrified their parents won’t be home when they return.

Let’s speak the truth: cruelty toward immigrants has been thedefining theme of Donald Trump’s presidency. He’s tried to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip to get funding for his vanity project, the wall. His administration has slammed the door on refugees. They’ve ripped children from their mothers’ arms and put them in cages. They separated a four-month-old babyfrom his father, who was fleeing persecution, and transported him to a foster home in Michigan; 16 months later, he still can’t walk or talk. That’s not border security – it’s a human rights abuse.

I became a prosecutor and a public servant because I wanted to protect people. I wanted to be the person that folks called for help – to use the law as a tool for fairness, and my power as a weapon in the fight for justice. As District Attorney, I prosecuted criminals who defrauded immigrants and got restitution for those victims, regardless of their legal status. As Attorney General, I secured pro-bono legal representation for unaccompanied minors.

So when I see Donald Trump abuse the world’s most powerful office to inflict pain on the most vulnerable, it is hard for me to understand how someone can be so malicious. But what I do understand is that hate and resentment are the core of his cynical politics. And anytime he sees an opportunity to exploit fear, or he wants to distract from his administration’s latest scandal, or he’s just craving some love from his base, he turns back to scapegoating and denigrating people who are different than him.

But let’s be perfectly clear about two things: First, this has nothing to do with security. Nobody is made safer by intentionally inciting panic in our communities. Nobody is made safer rounding up law-abiding parents while their kids are at soccer practice or summer camp. And second: this proposal – and this president’s entire anti-immigrant agenda – is antithetical to everything America stands for.

We need a president who has moral clarity and embodies our country’s values – who knows that tearing families apart is inherently un-American. We need a president who understands that immigrants not only belong in America, but that they are part of its very fabric. Unless your ancestors were Native American or brought over against their will on a slave ship, you’re an American thanks to immigration.

Standing up for the immigrant community has been a top priority for me my entire career. My first floor speech in the U.S. Senate was on behalf of Dreamers. The first bill I sponsored was the Dream Act, and I worked across the aisle on bipartisan legislation to ensure that Dreamers could work in Congress. I was one of just 11 Senators to vote against John Kelly’s confirmation because he wouldn’t commit to protecting DACA. In fact, I whipped votes on the Senate floor against his nomination, despite being a brand new Senator. I was the first Senator to call for Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation after she lied about the administration’s family separation policy. I have resisted every effort to fund Trump’s wall – even when there was immense pressure to cave and cut a deal.

I’ve fought the Trump Administration at every turn to prevent him from implementing his anti-immigrant wish list. Of course, that should be the floor, not the ceiling, for our next president. I will work tirelessly to pass 21st century immigration reform – but I won’t just wait around for Congress. Earlier this month, I outlined my plan to use executive actions to reinstate and expand DACA, create a new deferred action program for millions more law-abiding immigrants, and do everything within my legal authority to create a new pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

What this president doesn’t understand is that his hatefulness is no match for the resilience and strength of the millions of immigrants living in our country and contributing to our society. We need a new president who will have their backs - a president who understands that we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. I will be that president.

Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.