As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to settle in to his forthcoming status as leader of the free world, much of what he is signaling that he has in mind to do is proving unsettling to citizens in this or that locality, including our own.
A case in point is Trump's recent post-election reaffirmation of his intent to carry out a purge of undocumented immigrants residing within the nation's boundaries. To be sure, Trump is now insisting that he isn't targeting for deportation the entirety of an estimated 11 million persons in this category but only "2 or 3 million" who have committed crimes or otherwise proven themselves undesirable. But even that lesser number seems excessive and overstated as a gauge for the kind of extraordinary action the president-elect seems to have in mind.
Allow us, then, to commend Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who, like an increasing number of local-government officials in the United States, has in effect declared his opposition to such a Draconian over-reach by the federal government. Asked last week to respond to possible anti-immigrant actions by the soon-to-be Trump administration, Strickland gave the following forthright answer:
"The Memphis Police Department is not in the business of enforcing federal immigration policy, nor do we believe that is MPD's function or mission. It's not something that we do, and it's not something we intend to do. Memphis is a welcoming city that values diversity and each and every one of our citizens. And it will continue to be that way."
Strickland was not the only representative of Memphis to affirm the city's reputation as a place of welcome. At least two local college presidents — John Smarrelli of Christian Brothers University and William Troutt of Rhodes College — signed a public letter this week calling for support of the federal Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, which protects students who were brought to this country by their parents from the prospect of deportation. President Obama authorized the program four years ago by executive action after the Republican-dominated Congress blocked the so-called Dream Act, designed to achieve the same purpose.
The students covered by the program could become vulnerable if Trump should act on a campaign pledge to revoke all of Obama's executive actions by an executive action of his own.
We think that Obama and defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton struck the right note in calling for Americans to give the new Trump administration every possible benefit of the doubt, but where there is legitimate ground for genuine doubt as to the president-elect's good intentions — as in the present case — the aforementioned local officials have also spoken wisely and well.
The ultimate irony of President-elect Trump's threatened overkill on the immigration issue is that we are, as has so often been stated, a nation of immigrants (as have been two of Trump's wives), and not only have the regular infusions of newcomers over the centuries enriched our national stock, but the whole process of their coming has given the United States its essential reputation to the rest of the world as a beacon of liberty and a place of welcome.