There are two explanations, the first tugging at the heartstrings of every American who hates foreigners, whom they then conveniently include in the morass of “illegals” without the slightest clue of whether they’re undocumented or third-generation Cincinnati. The other are the people with accents and vowels at the end of their name who come to prominence for having committed a crime, apart from their mere existence.
The criminal ones are certainly a far easier sell. Think the murder of Kathryn Steinle by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, used as the posterboy for the “worst of the worst,” the alien who shouldn’t be here at all and yet not only came, but killed. Horrifying.
Few would argue that someone like Lopez-Sanchez are worthy of any immigrant sympathy, but what of the many who are here unlawfully (note: not illegally, but unlawfully) who commit no crimes, pay taxes (as do we all) and perform services that we need and appreciate? You know, the good illegals.
The official message was that they weren’t to be the priority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who had their hands more than full ridding us of the bad ones. Then the stories started emerging of ICE hanging out in front of schools picking up papa dropping off his daughter at school, days before graduation, beloved by his Trump-voting community.
The rationalization is that they are criminals by dint of their being here, which is not quite accurate. They may well be undocumented, but lacking documentation does not equate to committing a crime, and the remedy is to return them to the nation from whence they came, not put them in prison. Even so, the justification is that they deserve what they get, as they knew they were here unlawfully and can take no refuge in being the good kind of undocumented immigrants.
But then, they aren’t the people we love to hate. They aren’t a problem beyond the OCD haters who just have it out for anybody who lacks the right papers. They aren’t the people we were told ICE would be going after. Tim Cushing explains.
Mission creep is the mission, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement has (inadvertently) made clear.
A new document received by ProPublica under a Freedom of Information Act request demonstrates that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has adopted a policy that conflicts with both President Trump’s executive order (EO) and public Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines on immigration enforcement. I commented for the story, which you can read here.
The bottom line is that the memo shows that for months, ICE has been requiring agents to arrest all unauthorized immigrants whom they “encounter,” regardless of whether they are otherwise priorities for removal. Previously, ICE had admitted that it sometimes arrests non-prioritized immigrants, but this memo goes much further, requiring them to do so in all cases.
Is this a problem? Well, yes. In fact, it is.
ICE would rather deploy its limited workforce as inefficiently as possible.
Under the Trump EO, no one is “exempt” from potential removal, but officers are instructed to use their discretion to focus on those who fit these priorities. Notably absent from this list: every unauthorized immigrant “encountered” by an ICE officer.
This wording is in the executive order for two reasons: to avoid legal challenges and to prevent manpower waste. ICE apparently feels it’s been ordered to toss out every immigrant agents come across, whether or not they pose a safety risk and/or have a criminal record.
There are only so many ICE agents, ICE jail cells, immigration judges and seats on the bus. As Mario Machado explained, the capacity of ICE to deal with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants is a hard limitation on how much damage ICE can do. Logistics are a bitch, no matter how passionately you disagree with them.
But why has ICE ignored the professed policy of going after the bad hombres and instead issued a mandatory directive to go after all undocumented immigrants agents encounter? Is this an agency that’s gone rogue?
The memo proves that the agency wants to have as few limits as possible on its authority, and it believes that no one in the White House or in DHS will stop them, even when it ignores their orders. This effect is not new to the Trump administration. ICE flouted the executive actions of President Obama as well. It is new, however, to see that the agency is spelling out its defiance in written instructions to its agents. This makes sense given that the agency’s performance metrics are mainly the quantity of removals, not the quality of removals.
We’ve become inured to rule by bureaucrat, by agencies doing what they please in an effort to accomplish an agenda that Congress denies them. It’s as true for immigration (think DACA and DAPA) as it is for Title IX. Part of this is the sense that Congress is incapable of performing its function, which includes the aspect of senators speechifying for the crowds while actually doing nothing in the off hours but snagging that gig on Meet The Press. Then again, there is the sense that we may be far better off with a worthless Congress than a functional one.
But much as we may hold Congress in contempt, what is an ICE agent to do when he happens upon an undocumented immigrant? What is the message to be sent by the bosses to the grunts, that there are laws that have duly enacted and studiously ignored? If an ICE agents is left to his own discretion to decide when he is to perform the job with which he’s charged and when he is to turn away from someone he knows to be deportable, what of the considered determination of our legislative branch of government as to who is allowed to cross that immigration line?
This isn’t the same as a cop giving a speeder a warning, telling him not to speed again. You can’t tell an undocumented immigrant not to be undocumented again.
We are nation dependent on the labor, taxes and social contributions of immigrants, documented or otherwise. We struggled with the policy aspects for decades, to some extent taking into account the fact that we have a great many “good” immigrants who have made lives here, contributed to the nation and done no significant wrong. That ICE has gone rogue in their emphasis on quantity rather than quality of enforcement is no big surprise. The simplistic assessments are invariably based on numbers, as anything else requires more thought than people are willing to give.
ICE going rogue is no more acceptable than any other department or agency. But then, they are enforcing extant law, because Congress has failed for decades to address immigration policy and resolve the status of the “good” but undocumented immigrants. Leaving it in the hands of the ICE agents, with the executive branch incapable of, or insufficiently interested in, reining them in is no way to run a nation.
And the public doesn’t help when we persist in our simplistic generic anger and hatred of immigrants, just as our ancestors were when they arrived on these shores. This is disaster happening around us, and most Americans won’t grasp it until the damage is irreparable. We’re going to miss them when they’re gone, but by then, it’s too late.