The ICE Maelstrom

Luis Marin-Castro’s arrest by federal agents while he was working in Wainscott on April 9 highlights the need for a rational immigration policy. Mr. Marin, 31, came to East Hampton from Ecuador as a child, attended high school here, graduated from Suffolk Community College, and was a valued employee, working his way up from bus boy to sommelier at Nick and Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton. Like many others who were not born here, however, he did not have legal status in this country, and, after pleading guilty to drunken driving about three years ago, ended up in the sights of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Already, more than $50,000 had been contributed to a legal fund set up to try to win Mr. Marin’s release. This is a tremendous statement of support and good will. Donations can be made online at by searching for “Luis Marin.”

What passes for policy on immigration today can be summed up by President Donald Trump’s longed-for wall and the fact that he opened his campaign by stoking racist fears of rapists and “bad hombres” coming over the southern border. Sadly, the pitch worked. 

A recent analysis by scholars at the University of Massachusetts found that racism (as well as hostile sexism) correlated strongly with the likelihood of someone’s having voted for Mr. Trump for president, outweighing the economy, populism, and other variables. Separately, Google data show that searches with racist epithets or jokes soared nationwide during the presidential primary in areas that ended up going his way in November. It is notable that in recent polls as many as 57 percent of Americans believe the president is a racist.

It is difficult to draw an absolutely direct line from Mr. Trump to Luis Marin. However, enforcement actions have increased dramatically since the president was inaugurated and reports are that ICE will continue its aggressive ways. While apprehensions on the border initially dropped, arrests inside this country surged by almost half in 2017. 

Mr. Marin may be just a number to the White House, but here, he is a son, husband, and key employee. That makes it clear that the current United States immigration approach makes no sense. With statistically full employment, businesses from one end of the country to the other are desperate for workers. Mr. Marin, through no fault of his own, came here as a child and, but for one youthful and unfortunate brush with the law, for which he has long since made amends, has been a model member of the community. 

As we move rapidly toward the fateful midterm congressional elections, repairing the current immigration mess should be at the top of voters’ minds. Finding a way to officially welcome immigrants is a national priority. America needs more people like Luis Marin, not fewer.