Under Trump’s misguided policy, practically no illegal immigrant is safe anymore

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers make an arrest during an operation targeting immigration fugitives, re-entrants and criminal aliens in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers make an arrest during an operation targeting immigration fugitives, re-entrants and criminal aliens in Los Angeles. via AP

The Trump administration’s new directive targeting undocumented immigrants by broadening who is considered a “criminal alien” is horrendously extreme, incredibly impractical and patently un-American. And as expensive as the overly aggressive policy will be, it will cost the nation far more than money from its treasury.

Once again President Trump has acted, hellbent on keeping his campaign promises, at the expense of all this nation stands for.

The administration insists that the policy targets only the dangerous criminals. But it’s clear that it has practically any undocumented immigrant in its sights.

▪ There is no nuance: The policy makes no distinction between the woman driving to her job without a license and the man convicted of armed robbery. What is the point of separating that woman from her children? In pragmatic and compassionate recognition of why people come to this country and the lives they build, the Obama administration, and the Bush administration before that, pursued mostly those who committed serious crimes or were threats to national security. The high number of people deported under this policy earned Obama the derisive moniker, Deporter-in-Chief. The only good news is that the DREAMers appear to be unscathed — for now.

▪ They will be denied due process: Undocumented immigrants won’t have to be convicted of a crime to be a deportation priority. Just being accused will be enough. Recent immigrants caught near the border currently can be deported without a hearing. The Trump administration’s policy casts a far broader net both geographically and timewise. Now, those caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove that they have been here for at least two years can be denied a hearing and cast out. As we said before, un-American.

▪ The cost is astronomical: The 10,000 ICE officers the administration pledges to hire will cost $4 billion a year — to say nothing of the cost of the detention centers that the private prison industry is licking its chops over. Trump hasn’t said where that money is coming from. In addition, trying to ramp this up quickly is simply begging for the corruption and excessive use of force seen when the Bush administration launched a similar initiative without officers being thoroughly vetted before they were hired.

Fear, of course, is the fuel for this engine. Facts, as usual, get lost. The administration plans to publicize crimes by the undocumented. But the American Immigration Council cites years-long research that has found that, “Immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.” This holds true, by the way, for legal and illegal immigrants.

Locally, county commissioners who last week threw their lot behind Trump’s more-aggressive stance against the undocumented must assertively reassure their constituents that local law-enforcement officers will not become agents of federal immigration authorities. Local police officers play a big role in the president’s overly aggressive policy to arrest and deport virtually anyone in this country illegally. But it doesn’t make us safer; it makes illegal immigrants afraid to report crimes.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez doubled down on his pledge: “We are not asking immigration status, never have asked immigration status and never will,” he told the Editorial Board, referring to the county police department. “It is a federal responsibility. It’s up to them to do their job, and we will do ours.”

Politically exploited fears and xenophobia — and many Americans’ real economic hardship — have brought us to this sorry point. But so, too, has the unforgivable absence of coherent, tough, but compassionate immigration reform. And for that, Congress bears the blame.