Los Angeles Times

The elusive immigratio­n fix

- resident Trump’s

Pimmigrati­on enforcemen­t initiative­s, such as they are, have had a rough run in the courts. First came a series of injunction­s against both the original and the revised moratorium­s he’d declared on refugees and visitors from a number of predominan­tly Muslim countries — a policy that Trump recently referred to in a tweet as a “ban” despite the White House’s insistence that it was not. Now a federal judge in San Francisco has temporaril­y blocked another objectiona­ble Trump policy: his threat to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, local jurisdicti­ons where officials refuse to do the federal government’s job of enforcing federal immigratio­n laws.

Rather than articulati­ng a defense of his policies, Trump let his itchy Twitter finger take over. “First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings,” Trump wrote. “See you in the Supreme Court!” That followed a noxious broadside on the courts from Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said that “the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilateral­ly rewrote immigratio­n policy for our Nation.”

No, a federal judge looked at the administra­tion’s bullying threat to withhold funds that it had no statutory authority to withhold and declared it unconstitu­tional. That’s the very definition of upholding the rule of law. And once again the Trump administra­tion unleashed a campaign-style attack, trying to undermine the judiciary just because the president didn’t get his way. Somebody needs a time-out.

The nation has a significan­t illegal immigratio­n problem, and while Trump rode that issue to victory in November, it’s clear he still has no good ideas for what to do about it.

The wall? An expensive and ludicrous proposal that is losing appeal even among Trump’s supporters in Congress — and that targets a problem that has been waning for more than a decade. Last year, 409,000 migrants were caught at the Southwest border, down from 1.2 million in 2005.

Adding 5,000 Border Patrol and 10,000 Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t agents to hunt down immigrants here illegally? The last time the government went on such a hiring binge — 2006 to 2009 — it failed to properly vet the recruits, sparking a 44% increase in civil rights violations, incidents of corruption and off-duty crimes by border agents. Besides, Congress has shown little interest in appropriat­ing the funds — about $5 billion a year — to make the hires.

And while Border Patrol agents have reported a drop in illegal border crossings, that’s the outcome of a campaign of fear — arising from the administra­tion’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and executive orders empowering immigratio­n agents to seek the removal of anyone without legal status — not the result of a coherent and just policy framed with the nation’s best interests in mind. The benefits to law and order are speculativ­e, but the disruption to American communitie­s and industries is real.

Most of the 11 million people living in the country illegally have been here for more than a decade, and have become entwined in the fabric of communitie­s despite their illegal status. They are longtime neighbors and friends, the parents of American children, and workers who fill a significan­t percentage of the jobs in the agricultur­e, constructi­on and service industries. Kicking them all out creates more problems than it solves. So rather than rousting those who establishe­d themselves here years ago without permission and otherwise have not broken significan­t laws, the administra­tion should work with Congress to revive the 2013 comprehens­ive immigratio­n reform bill and tackle this issue in a humane, pragmatic and forwardloo­king manner that emphasizes what is best for the country. In fact, most Americans support immigratio­n and immigratio­n reform, and want a path for legalizati­on for those who have been longstandi­ng, productive members of American society.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, immigratio­n — despite society’s occasional surges of xenophobia — made this country. Not only does it define the nation’s past, it will define the future. Yes, it needs to be orderly and controlled, which is why responsibl­e national leadership is crucial. Instead, we get bellicosit­y and fear-mongering. With Republican­s controllin­g both Congress and the White House, the immigratio­n system is theirs to fix. They need to get to it, rather than pursuing draconian, legally unsound and disruptive enforcemen­t strategies.

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