The headline in USA today announces “Homeland Security unveils sweeping plan to deport undocumented immigrants.” When I first read that, I assumed that this represented some sort of blueprint for going after “undocumented” (people who arrived here illegally) immigrants all over the US, which would be fulfilling one of the more controversial promises of the Trump campaign.
But instead it seems to be a plan to tighten up border security and to suggest that ICE actually deport more of the people authorities find as they first arrive and are detained. In other words, an end to (or at least a diminution of) “catch and release*”:
The memos require undocumented immigrants caught entering the country to be placed in detention until their cases are resolved, increase the ability of local police to help in immigration enforcement, call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents and allow planning to begin on an expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.
What percentage of Americans have trouble with that? Probably a lot fewer than with some sort of mass roundup and deportation policy. This announcement seems like a case of enforcing immigration laws in a way that makes it clear that if you want to enter this country you should come legally, under our rules. It doesn’t do much about changing the status quo for people who already came here illegally, and it doesn’t touch DACA either.
When you add the directive (as Homeland Security did) that “The memos make undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime the highest priority for enforcement operations,” it makes even more sense and is even less controversial. But naturally:
Immigration advocacy groups were crushed…
“These memos lay out a detailed blueprint for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Educational Fund, which advocates on behalf of immigrants. “They fulfill the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements and bring to life the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.”
But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says “What (Homeland Security Secretary John) Kelly has done is lay out a broad road map of regaining control of a process that’s spun out of control.”
Seems to me that with immigration we have three main issues. The first is how many legal immigrants we wish to let in and under what rules. Do we want to reform that process? Do we want to expand or to contract that number? How do we vet them, and who vets them?
The second issue is what to do about the illegal immigrants who are already here. And the third is what to do about those newly entering. It seems to me that these new Trump administration directives (and I have only read summaries and skimmed parts of them rather than reading the entire document) deal predominantly with that third issue. In so doing, the policy has a chilling effect on those entering illegally and planning to enter illegally. That chilling effect is almost certainly intentional. In addition, however—and with the assistance of the MSM and immigrant activists—it probably has the effect of striking fear into the hearts of those who are already here illegally.
It seems to me that the aim of the whole thing is indeed to “regain control of a process that’s spun out of control.” It remains to be seen how this will actually play out and be implemented in the real world—and whether further directives will be issued that expand the process and involve a great many of the people who are already here. I am sure, however, that even if all that happens is that deportation numbers increase among those who are newly arrived along the border, the press will treat us to an almost endless series of stories about their pathetic fate at the hands of those heartless ICE employees.
And many of the stories will be sad. But a nation has a right and a duty to make decisions regarding who to let into that country and under what conditions. If the people of the US wanted to let in many millions more immigrants from Latin America a year legally they could, although that would take changing the current laws on legal immigration. It’s about who gets to decide and whether reasonable laws will be enforced reasonably.
[NOTE: * “Catch and release” is the policy under which “many undocumented immigrants are processed by immigration agents, released into the country and ordered to reappear for court hearings.”
Here’s how well it workedin the past:
Historically, due to the lack of resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people, as well as the lengthy time period between apprehension and being ordered deported, catch-and-release was the de facto policy followed by ICE: those believed to be in violation of immigration status were released and given a date when they were to appear before an immigration judge for their deportation hearing. Knowing that coming to a hearing could lead to them being deported, many of these people simply failed to turn up to their hearings. In July 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis reported that at some federal immigration courts, 98% of the defendants failed to show up.
Which makes perfect sense. Why would they show up?
The policy was ended by the Bush administration in 2005-6, and reinstated in part in the later years of the Obama administration, although there’s disagreement about to what extent.]