Donald Trump promised voters he would do a lot of things “on day one” in office, but of course he was lying and failed to do so. On his first day in office, Trump broke 34 promises. One of these promises was the one to the nativist and racist anti-immigrant white voters who put him over the top:
“These international gangs of thugs and drug cartels will be, I promise you from the first day in office, the first thing I’m going to do, the first piece of paper I’m going to sign is we are going to get rid of these people day one,” Trump said on the campaign trail in August 2016. In October 2015, Trump said about Obama’s immigration deferred action executive action initiatives, “the first minute in office I will countersign and revoke those executive orders.” He vowed to move 2 million “criminal aliens” out of the country “my first hour in office,” in August 2016. The following month, Trump said he would “give a mandate to everybody, including the local police,” to get the “bad ones” out of the country, also in the first hour.
Didn’t happen. But after stumbling and bumbling through his first month in office, the Trump “Deportation Force” has arrived, and it is as bad as anticipated. New Trump Deportation Rules Allow Far More Expulsions:
President Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.
Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.
The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.
Despite those assertions in the new documents, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.
The president’s new immigration policies are likely to be welcomed by some law enforcement officials around the country, who have called for a tougher crackdown on unauthorized immigrants, and by some Republicans in Congress who have argued that lax enforcement encourages a never-ending flow of unauthorized immigrants.
But taken together, the new policies are a rejection of the sometimes more restrained efforts by former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and their predecessors, who sought to balance protecting the nation’s borders with fiscal, logistical and humanitarian limits on the exercise of laws passed by Congress.
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The immediate impact of that shift is not yet fully known. Advocates for immigrants warned on Tuesday that the new border control and enforcement directives would create an atmosphere of fear that was likely to drive those in the country illegally deeper into the shadows.
Administration officials said some of the new policies — like one seeking to send unauthorized border crossers from Central America to Mexico while they await deportation hearings — could take months to put in effect and might be limited in scope.
For now, so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as young children, will not be targeted unless they commit crimes, officials said on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump has not yet said where he will get the billions of dollars needed to pay for thousands of new border control agents, a network of detention facilities to detain unauthorized immigrants and a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.
And this is where our Tea-Publican Congress comes in. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes, Trump’s mass deportations have arrived. But will Republicans pay for them?
The Department of Homeland Security has finally released a series of memos detailing how President Trump’s mass deportations will be implemented. As expected, they scrap most of the enforcement priorities put in place under President Barack Obama, and vastly expand the pool of undocumented immigrants who will now be targeted for deportation.
Which raises a question: Will congressional Republicans appropriate the money that this will cost?
The new DHS memos represent a massive change in the way the deportation machinery will now function. Under Obama’s DHS, the removal of low-level offenders and longtime residents with ties to communities was deprioritized, so limited enforcement resources could be focused on serious criminals and recent border-crossers. Now that is no longer the case, as Dara Lind explains:
Under the Obama administration, this meant “prioritizing” ever-more-narrow categories of unauthorized immigrants for deportation; by the end of the Obama administration, unauthorized immigrants living in the US who hadn’t been convicted of crimes were at pretty low risk of being deported.
That era is over. Under President Trump, the massive immigration enforcement “machine” of the US will now have nearly free rein to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants wherever it finds them.
Read Lind’s piece for more details on the various ways in which the new regime will seek to maximize the deportations of these lower-level offenders. But one of the most important includes tripling the number of removal agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, by adding 10,000 agents.
Today I spoke about the implications of this with John Sandweg, who for a time under Obama was acting director of ICE and acting general counsel of DHS.
Sandweg argues that vastly expanding the pool of targets for deportation is mostly about driving up the numbers of people being deported — by going after the lower-level offenders and longtime residents, or what he calls the “low-hanging fruit.” But that, he says, would divert resources away from going after the serious criminals and recent border-crossers.
“A lot of this is designed to put up numbers — but in doing so, you diminish the impact on public safety,” Sandweg says, adding that the new policies will “disproportionately impact non-criminals.”
Now, the way that Trump’s DHS will deal with this is by increasing the number of ICE agents — hence the tripling of them. But that is going to cost money. Sandweg estimates this could cost as much as $1 billion to $2 billion for the first year — because of hiring, training, equipment, and offices. Politico recently put the estimate even higher, at nearly $4 billion per year.
“Are Republicans going to give them the money?” Sandweg asks. “It’s on Congress now to fund this.” And Congress is already going to have to appropriate money to pay for Trump’s border wall. [Trump border ‘wall’ to cost $21.6 billion, take 3.5 years to build: Internal report]
What’s more, Sandweg doubts that even these increased expenditures would secure results that are worth that additional money. That’s because in the end, a large chunk of these additional appropriations might end up getting spent on removing low-level offenders. “Getting 10,000 new agents is not going to get you one-for-one bang for the buck,” Sandweg says.
Of course, this would drive up the number of deportations. Which, at bottom, seems to be the real goal of the policy.
I’ve argued before that targeting low level offenders who have been here a long time for deportation is freighted with moral complications. Many came here to better their lives and those of their families in ways that are in sync with American history and values. Many have since developed longtime ties to communities and are currently contributing to American life. Deporting many of them will rupture families and communities. Yes, they broke the law, and the conservative argument that allowing them to remain rewards lawbreaking must be taken seriously. But they are more than mere lawbreakers — or, arguably, they have become more than mere lawbreakers — and these changing circumstances, too, deserve to be taken seriously in deciding what constitutes the most just response.
What’s more, it needs to be asked whether vastly stepping up deportations makes sense as policy — is this really in the interests of the United States? The core practical dimensions of the Trump administration’s response make it look highly questionable in those terms, too.
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Over the long haul, it will be worth watching to see whether Republicans actually do appropriate the funds necessary to dramatically expand deportations. It also remains to be seen whether they’ll have the stomach for this if a great deal of press attention focuses on the plight of low-level offenders who are now under serious threat of deportation.
One last point: The current memos do not rescind Obama’s executive action protecting “dreamers” from deportation and awarding them work permits, under the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for DHS, tells me that for the foreseeable future, work permits will continue to be given out to DACA recipients. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “will continue to process DACA benefits as usual,” Christensen says.
So Tuesday’s outcome is not a total victory for the immigration hard-liners.
The early editorial response to Trump’s “Deportation Force” has been negative. The New York Times editorializes Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values:
The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, issued a remarkable pair of memos on Tuesday. They are the battle plan for the “deportation force” President Trump promised in the campaign.
They are remarkable for how completely they turn sensible immigration policies upside down and backward. For how they seek to make the deportation machinery more extreme and frightening (and expensive), to the detriment of deeply held American values.
A quick flashback: The Obama administration recognized that millions of unauthorized immigrants, especially those with citizen children and strong ties to their communities and this country, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, national-security threats and recent border crossers.
Mr. Kelly has swept away those notions. He makes practically every deportable person a deportation priority. He wants everybody, starting with those who have been convicted of any crime, no matter how petty or old. Proportionality, discretion, the idea that some convictions are unjust, the principles behind criminal-justice reform — these concepts do not apply.
The targets now don’t even have to be criminals. They could simply have been accused of a crime (that is, still presumed “innocent”) or have done something that makes an immigration agent believe that they might possibly face charges.
Mr. Kelly included a catchall provision allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers or Border Patrol agents — or local police officers or sheriff’s deputies — to take in anyone they think could be “a risk to public safety or national security.” That is a recipe for policing abuses and racial profiling, a possibility that Mr. Kelly will vastly expand if Congress gives him the huge sums required to hire 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.
He wants to “surge,” his verb, the hiring of immigration judges and asylum officers. He wants to add processing and detention centers, which surely has the private-prison industry salivating at the profits to come.
He wants to ramp up programs deputizing state and local law enforcement officers as immigration enforcers. He calls them “a highly successful force multiplier,” which is true if you want a dragnet. It’s not true if you want to fight crime effectively and keep communities safe. When every local law enforcement encounter can be a prelude to deportation, unauthorized immigrants will fear and avoid the police. And when state and local officers untrained in immigration law suddenly get to decide who stays and who goes, the risk of injustice is profound.
So is the danger to due process. Current procedure allows for swiftly deporting, without a hearing, immigrants who are caught near the border and who entered very recently. But Mr. Kelly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been here “continuously” for at least two years. He’s keeping his options open about whether to short-circuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers policy.
He plans to publish data on crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, and to identify state and local jurisdictions that release immigrants from custody. Why? To promote the false idea, as Mr. Trump has shamefully done, that immigrants pose particular safety risks and to punish so-called sanctuary cities that, for reasons of public order and decency, are trying to disconnect themselves from ICE.
This is how Mr. Trump’s rantings about “bad hombres” and alien rapist terrorists have now been weaponized, in cold bureaucratic language.
Mr. Kelly promised before his confirmation to be a reasonable enforcer of defensible policies. But immigrants have reason to be frightened by his sudden alignment with Mr. Trump’s nativism. So does every American who believes that the country is, or should be, committed to the sensible, proportionate application of laws, welcoming to immigrants, and respectful of the facts.
Similarly, the Washington Post editorializes, The Trump administration’s blueprint for mass removals, with a streak of cruelty:
In the fiscal year that ended last fall, the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended on the southwestern border was just a quarter the number in 2000 and less than half the annual count during most of George W. Bush’s administration. Although last year’s apprehensions in the Southwest rose from the previous year — largely because of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America seeking refugee status — the overall number was among the lowest since the turn of the century.
Nonetheless, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has somehow conjured what he called a “surge of illegal immigration at the southern border [that] has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States.” Mr. Kelly’s unfounded rhetoric is contained in a memorandum, released Tuesday, that provides an inventive rationale to justify the Trump administration’s overbroad expansion of deportation efforts. The effect of the new DHS guidelines is to sharply expand the pool of immigrants designated as priorities for deportation.
They do so by various means, including widening the targets of expedited deportation proceedings, until now limited to undocumented immigrants in the country for no more than two weeks and living within 100 miles of the border, to people who entered in the past two years and live anywhere in the nation — a cohort estimated at 800,000 to 1.1 million people. They also target not only people convicted of serious crimes but also those convicted of minor infractions, such as using a false Social Security number to get a job.
The guidelines’ subsidiary effects are just as concerning. They compromise law enforcement efforts in counties and cities nationwide by expanding efforts to deputize local police to act as federal deportation agents. That could chill cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and immigrant neighborhoods. The document sends a message of fear through many of America’s immigrant communities — not just the estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants, but also their spouses, children and other relatives living legally in the United States.
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Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, likes to echo Mr. Trump’s comment that he has “a big heart,” the supposed evidence being that the DHS guidelines do not, for now, aim deportation efforts at ”dreamers” — the 750,000 young people given work permits and temporarily shielded from removal by the Obama administration. While that is welcome, in other respects a streak of cruelty runs through the new policy. For instance, it seeks to deter the entry of unaccompanied minors by threatening to prosecute parents if they paid smugglers to help their children cross the border. Deterrence is a fair goal if achieved by humane means. In this case, the administration’s policies will break up families and harm people leading peaceable lives.
Welcome to Trump’s Deportation Nation, the antithesis to everything you were raised to believe about America. The darkness descends.