The word spread like wildfire on the twitters that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were knocking on doors and demanding to see people’s papers yesterday, as they were engaged in our new president’s newest operation to corral immigrants.
People asked how this could be legal. People bemoaned the outrage of Trump’s thugs demanding papers. The twitters was in yet another hysterical frenzy over this horrifying person’s terrifying actions. It was madness.The New York operation was planned one week ago and was part of a national action that was planned several weeks ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
“New York was late to the game,” said an agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details about who had been detained were still being learned. The official said the arrests had not been impromptu and had been planned around individuals’ routines, adding that a fuller account would be available on Monday.
In New York, a total of 40 people were detained. Across 11 states, a total of 600 people were detained. There’s a good chance that there are more than 40 people in New York who are excludable under immigration law. More than 600 in those 11 states.
But still, isn’t this an outrage? More importantly, isn’t this a Trump outrage?
At least in the New York area (including Long Island), fewer people were arrested than during an Obama administration enforcement sweep in August, when 58 people were arrested.
The Obama administration was especially active in deporting unauthorized immigrants, most notably in 2012, when 409,849 people were deported. In 2015, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests of more than 2,000 people nationwide in one week, targeting criminals. And the Obama administration was still sweeping up low-priority immigrants last summer.
No, it’s not a Trump outrage. It’s business as usual. It’s the same immigration laws that existed when Obama was president. It’s the same enforcement methods that were employed when Obama was president. If anything, ICE wasn’t as effective on this sweep as before.
Even people who know better, who should know better, can’t resist the hysteria.
Nevertheless, Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said last week’s action was worrisome because it seemed to be only the beginning.
“It really doesn’t matter if it’s business as usual from ICE’s perspective — at some point, we know that they will start to ramp up enforcement activity,” Mr. Choi said in an interview. He added that a Jan. 25 executive order from the president about ensuring public safety included the bolstering of the immigration force.
The fear of future outrages is a facile justification for being extra outraged in advance, but one that has consumed a broad swathe of previously level-headed people. The travel ban Executive Order, and the ensuing fiasco following its shockingly inept implementation, is something Trump did, and something worthy of the most strenuous challenge and criticism. This roundup, however, was not. Not even a little bit.
On the Sunday morning news shows, a peculiar looking fellow with oddly dead eyes was a Trump spokesman. In the course of his spewing nonsensical claims about the president not being subject to the court, he uttered a chilling phrase.
A senior White House adviser on Sunday denounced federal judges who have stood in the way of Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, warning that “the whole world will soon see” that the president’s executive powers “will not be questioned”.
The “will not be questioned” phrase is, of course, fundamentally incompatible with our republic. Is this an accurate representation of the Trump administration’s position? Did some second-string Pee Wee Herman look-alike spew a stupid phrase, which the administration is too fragile and ego-bound to admit was a stupid phrase? If this was as nefarious as it sounded, then the administration should have pulled out the guns, told the Ninth Circuit to suck eggs and not pondered whether to appeal, go to the Supreme Court or re-write the EO to meet the court’s challenges.
But it didn’t pull out the guns. It didn’t tell the Ninth Circuit, “now enforce it.” For all the bluster, the ineptitude, the threat of a dictatorship of the clueless, it hasn’t actually happened. Not yet, anyway.
Yet, that hasn’t stopped the forces of good from shrieking hysterically at the forces of evil at every turn, from fake news harms to actual things, albeit trivial and benign, that are ascribed the most horrifying motives and meanings created out of baseless fears.
Sure, there were plenty of folks in advance of Trump taking office predicting the end of times, even though he had yet to do anything because he wasn’t yet president. One would hope that thoughtful people grasped that detail, and chuckled at the sweetly hysterical as representing the omnipresent overly emotional who couldn’t distinguish between reality and their predictive fears.
But any hope that cooler heads would prevail appears absurdly overly optimistic. There will be bad things done by this administration. We know that because every administration does bad things, and this one, in particular, is especially aggressive in its embrace of excess authoritarianism.
How this will play out, however, has yet to be seen. Will it be sound and fury signifying nothing, or will this be the authoritarian imperial presidency that undermines the republic? Certainly, the indications suggest the latter, but until things are done, in reality, that compel a fight, there is nothing real to challenge. This immigration action? It’s pedestrian. It’s not Trump. It’s America. It’s what the president before Trump did, and what happened on Trump’s watch.
When the time comes for action, will you know it? Will outrage exhaustion, lies, ignorance, hysteria suck out the ability to distinguish the real problems from the phony hysteria, the will to fight, the capacity for effective challenge to executive impropriety?
At a time when lawyers will be most needed to fight for the Constitution, are you being sucked into every nutjob conspiracy, every false story of trauma? Are your heroes in this fight accurate and effective or hysterical screamers of dubious intellectual merit and integrity? Will you believe anything that validates your feelings and reject, indeed, hate, anyone who doesn’t shriek as loud and crazy as you do? Yes.
If you can’t accept the premise that this immigration roundup was a routine enforcement action, then you have lost touch with reality. You may share your delusion with all your friends on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s still a delusion.