In the general-election campaign, President Trump assured Americans that in enforcing immigration laws, what he really wanted to do was to focus on dangerous criminals. Of course, the Obama administration already had done just that, prioritizing deportation of violent criminals. Nevertheless, it has long been the view of now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and the bevy of anti-immigrant groups that deportation should be expanded to include a whole range of people.
That’s what the president’s new immigration order portends. The Post reports:
The Trump administration sought to allay fears in immigrant communities Tuesday as it publicly released wide-ranging new guidelines that allow federal authorities to take stronger enforcement actions against illegal immigrants, saying the directives are not intended to produce mass deportations.
But this is hardly about prioritizing violent criminals. To the contrary, people never convicted of anything are targeted:
After deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, pressure from immigration advocates prompted the Obama administration to implement new guidelines that focused enforcement on hardened criminals. The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007. …
[Homeland Security Secretary John F.] Kelly’s new DHS policies considerably broaden the pool of those who are prioritized for deportations, including undocumented immigrants who have been charged with crimes but not convicted, those who commit acts that constitute a “chargeable criminal offense,” and those who an immigration officer concludes pose “a risk to public safety or national security.”
Despite the administration’s stated assurances that this would not spark mass deportations and that it did not want to spread panic, that is exactly how pro-immigrant organizations took the news. The pro-immigration-reform organization America’s Voice responded:
Previously, the Trump Administration had offered false assurances that their enforcement efforts would be focused on “criminals.” Now they are openly admitting that they “will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” These memos amount to an instruction manual for the coast-to-coast, fast-track deportation of everyone in the United States without papers, no matter how long they’ve been here, how strong their family ties, and how much they contribute.
Logically, if you are prioritizing that long list of categories of people, you are not prioritizing any one category, especially violent criminals. When the next felony committed by an undocumented immigrant occurs, the Trump administration will have to explain why it was spending time and resources deporting noncriminals. When the crime rate goes up in cities, and mayors explain that not only have the feds neglected to focus on violent criminals in the undocumented-immigrant population but they’ve also deterred ordinary citizens from cooperating with law enforcement, Trump should be held accountable for the “carnage.”
This is not about crime, or even illegal immigration. This is about the White House ideologues keeping a pledge to anxious white voters who’ve been told by Fox Non-News and Trump that immigrants are responsible for their economic plight and are largely violent criminals. The exaggerated, inaccurate view of the immigrant community has had its effect. The expanded deportation directive is the natural result of Trump’s — and too much of the right’s — demonization of nonwhites. And the new order in fact will sweep in a great many people who are not criminals or undocumented immigrants, or immigrants at all. A Hispanic-looking person without “papers” will now need to worry about being swept up in an immigration raid. Welcome to Trump’s America, where relations between the police and Hispanic and other minority communities are about to get really, really tense.
The ACLU promises court action and civil disobedience. (“These memos confirm that the Trump administration is willing to trample on due process, human decency, the well-being of our communities, and even protections for vulnerable children, in pursuit of a hyper-aggressive mass deportation policy. However, President Trump does not have the last word here — the courts and the public will not allow this un-American dream to become reality.”) The real test will come from cities, police forces and ordinary citizens who correctly see this as painting a target on the backs of nonwhite neighbors and making all of us a lot less safe.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post