Road­blocks could slow mass de­por­ta­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION - Alan Gomez @ alan­gomez

Don­ald Trump says one of the first things he’ll do when he be­comes pres­i­dent is de­port up to 3 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants. It would be one of the largest such roundups in Amer­i­can his­tory. Here are an­swers to some ques­tions about how he will ac­com­plish that.

Q How many “crim­i­nal” un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are there?

In a post- elec­tion in­ter­view with CBS’ 60 Min­utes, Trump said he would de­port 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion of the 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who are “crim­i­nal and have crim­i­nal records.” The ac­tual num­ber de­pends on how one de­fines “crim­i­nal.”

The Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute, a non­par­ti­san think tank, es­ti­mates 820,000 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants have been con­victed of a crime in the U. S. About 300,000 were con­victed of felonies and 390,000 of se­ri­ous mis­de­meanors.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity puts the num­ber of “re­mov­able crim­i­nal aliens” at 1.9 mil­lion, but that es­ti­mate in­cludes for­eign­ers with le­gal sta­tus, peo­ple con­victed of all crimes ( ex- cept for traf­fic of­fenses) and those re­peat­edly caught cross­ing the border.

Many are al­ready in cus­tody, mak­ing them the eas­i­est to iden­tify.

Q How will the gov­ern­ment track down those un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants?

Trump could ask Congress for more fund­ing to in­crease the size of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment ( ICE), but a quicker so­lu­tion would be redi­rect­ing the cur­rent 14,000 ICE of­fi­cers, agents and spe­cial agents to con­cen­trate on ar­rests.

But only 1,000- 1,100 agents cur­rently track down fugi­tive un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who are crim­i­nals or gang mem­bers, ac­cord­ing to John Sandweg, a for­mer act­ing direc­tor of ICE. The rest work on de­ten­tion op­er­a­tions, screen­ing visa ap­pli­cants in for­eign coun­tries, con­duct­ing im­mi­gra­tion au­dits of U. S. busi­nesses and in­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes.

Sandweg said sev­eral core func­tions must be main­tained be­cause of con­gres­sional man­dates, but an ICE direc­tor could eas­ily re­fo­cus more peo­ple to find­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants.

“There would be a lot of flex­i­bil­ity for an ICE direc­tor to re- cal­i­brate the agency,” said Sandweg, now an at­tor­ney with Fron­tier So­lu­tions.

Q How quickly can un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants be de­ported?

Be­fore they can be de­ported to their home coun­try, im­mi­grants have the right to a hear­ing be­fore an im­mi­gra­tion judge. But the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion courts are al­ready over­bur­dened.

That has led to a huge back­log of 521,676 cases wait­ing nearly two years on av­er­age to be heard, ac­cord­ing to the Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house at Syra­cuse Univer­sity. Cases take an av­er­age of 675 days to com­plete; in Colorado the av­er­age is more than 1,000 days per case.

The only way to speed up those cases is to hire more im­mi­gra­tion judges. There are now 273. Congress has ap­proved fund­ing to in­crease the num­ber to 374, and Trump could ask Congress to hire even more.

Yet, even if Trump filled all 374 posts and added 150 more judges over the next two years, they could not clear out all the pend­ing im­mi­gra­tion cases un­til 2023, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights First, a non­profit ad­vo­cacy group.

Q Which un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants will be tar­geted?

Trump’s em­pha­sis on crim­i­nals may leave mil­lions of other un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in the clear.

One such group: the 740,000 young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants granted de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tions un­der Pres­i­dent Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, known as DACA. To qual­ify, they had to regis­ter with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, have a clean record and work or go to school.

Trump has vowed to end the pro­gram and re­scind their de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tions. Mex­i­can na­tion­als would be the most heav­ily tar­geted, be­cause they ac­count for 52% of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Q What will hap­pen to those who re­main?

Repub­li­can pro­pos­als in re­cent years pro­vide some pos­si­bil­i­ties.

In 2014, af­ter the Se­nate passed a bill that al­lowed some un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to be­come U. S. cit­i­zens, House Repub­li­cans out­lined a plan that in­stead would let them re­ceive le­gal sta­tus, but not cit­i­zen­ship.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy groups de­cried the House pro­posal as “sec­ond- class cit­i­zen­ship,” but some Repub­li­cans en­dorsed that idea as a way to pun­ish un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants for en­ter­ing il­le­gally but still al­low them to live in the U. S. with­out fear of de­por­ta­tion.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR USA TODAY

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