To hear President Donald Trump describe it, his new policy on immigration enforcement is aimed at kicking out only “bad hombres,” the serious criminals who Trump says are endangering American lives. If that were the case, we’d have no argument. President Barack Obama enforced the same policy.
But the new policy confers sweeping new authority on local police and immigration enforcers to round up and jail just about anyone of a certain profile, possibly leading to detainees being deposited across the Mexican border without due process.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly outlined the policy on Tuesday. Kelly bluntly stated that the days of leniency are over: “Policies that facilitate the release of removable aliens, … which allow them to abscond and fail to appear at their removal hearings, undermine the border security mission. Such policies, collectively referred to as ‘catch- and- release,’ shall end.”
Forget “bad hombres.” The new policy targets anyone here without legal authorization. The only exceptions, Trump says, are youths brought to America by their undocumented parents. They had been sheltered under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“We’re gonna show great heart,” Trump said last week, pledging to keep DACA intact. “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have … some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way — it’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject.”
Trump appears to be expressing compassion for the so-called Dreamers. But if compassion really is on his mind, then how can Trump rationalize letting children stay but yanking their parents off the streets and deporting them for infractions as innocuous as driving with a broken tail light?
Kelly made it clear that any undocumented immigrant whose path crosses with that of law enforcers or immigration authorities could be detained and expelled, not released like before.
The Obama policy had its own element of compassion, but it was also practical: There’s nowhere near the necessary federal funding to reimburse local jails, outfit immigration detention centers and pay for additional immigration court judges to adjudicate thousands of additional deportation cases. Immigration courts are overwhelmed as it is.
Throughout the presidential campaign, a chief concern about Trump’s immigration crackdown plan was how he would pay for it. He still hasn’t answered that question, yet he’s launching the plan anyway.
In addition, the U.S. Border Patrol already has problems with abuses of authority. A case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, involving an officer who fired across the border and killed an unarmed Mexican teenager, underscores the dangers when Washington issues a clarion call for local police and border patrol officers to get tough.
Compassion tends to fly out the window, along with the Constitution.