Obama’s de­por­ta­tion raids are ugly but right

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - Ex­cerpted from a Bloomberg View edi­to­rial.

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.

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