Obama’s deportation raids are ugly but right
Arresting and deporting women and children in the middle of the night is undoubtedly a nasty business. It’s also sometimes necessary.
Some Democrats are furious about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s crackdown on immigrants from Central America whose requests for asylum have been denied. But the heavy-handedness of the raids — which took place during the New Year’s weekend — is part of the point: With the future of U.S. immigration policy clouded by political uncertainty and legal challenges, both the emigrants and those who seek to exploit them need a clarifying reminder that the U.S. will enforce its immigration laws.
The number of child migrants and families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras crossing the border is now nearing levels surpassed only during the height of the crisis in 2014. Many attribute this increase to escalating violence in Central America. Yet while El Salvador saw a nearly 70 percent jump in homicides last year, the number of homicides in Honduras and Guatemala has declined in recent years. And for all the horrors of violence, Central Americans have plenty of other reasons to come to the U.S.: family, jobs, a punishing drought back home.
Misinformation and confusion about U.S. immigration policy have also played a role. The surge in arrivals of children with and without a parent coincides with executive actions that President Barack Obama issued to shield children brought earlier to the U.S., and in some cases their parents, from deportation. Smuggling gangs have falsely used these moves, and the prospect of an amnesty, to encourage people to make the dangerous and expensive trek north.
This flow of several hundred thousand Central American women and children has overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system. Sorting out those who have humanitarian claims to asylum from those coming to the U.S. for other reasons is time-consuming, and the U.S. lacks the courts, legal personnel, and detention facilities to handle them. So they have often been released until their cases can be heard — in many cases not for two years.
As harsh as the deportations may be, they are consistent with the law and send a strong deterrent signal. Despite the outcry, backing off now would reinforce the misperceptions in Central America that helped create this problem — and undermine public support for legal immigration in the U.S.