So the raids are set begin, like the president promised.
They will be heart-wrenching for many Americans to watch — frightened infants and children, tearful mothers and fathers, all being led in groups from their homes.
As the prisoners climb into government vans or buses, one of the ICE agents who is part of the raid might say, “Be careful now. Watch your step.” Or maybe he’ll say nothing.
Maybe this is exactly what he signed up for, and he’s fine with it. Or maybe it makes him sad, and a little ashamed.
He’s just doing his job. These people entered our country illegally. They knew the risks they were taking. Nobody forced them to bring along their kids, right?
So here we are in the 244th year of history’s most idealistic, durable democracy, a nation made prosperous by immigrants — some of them brought here unwillingly — pressing our backs to the door with all our might.
The first of Trump’s raids will target about 2,000 immigrants who were ordered deported but haven’t left or shown up in court. Most are recent arrivals on the Southern border.
According to The New York Times, ICE will try to keep arrested family members incarcerated together. However, there’s significant concern — and disagreement — within the Department of Homeland Security about both the political and humanitarian impact of the roundups, which will take place in 10 states, including Florida.
The optics are bound to be awful, because it’s almost impossible to lock up young kids and their parents without appearing soulless. Only a twisted person could enjoy a job like that, and the majority of ICE officers don’t enjoy it one bit.
A new facility for unaccompanied migrant children just opened in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and the head of the company being paid to run the place told the Washington Post: “I hate this mission. The only reason we do it is to keep the kids out of Border Patrol jail cells.”
The horror stories about cramped, unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the jails and detention centers are now in the stump speech of almost every Democratic presidential contender.
And why not? It can legitimately be called a national disgrace. Putting an end to it is something else.
The heavy flow of migrants from Central America is suffocating the already-wheezing, underfunded bureaucracy of border control. Immigration courts are hopelessly backlogged, the detention centers perilously overcrowded.
Life is better now for the migrant teens at the Carrizo shelter, but it costs taxpayers between $750 and $800 per child per day. The kids go to classes. They play soccer. On July 4, they got pizza.
The facility, which was built to hold 1,300 kids, has 200 now. Its fencing is topped with barbed wire. In Homestead, the other federal “surge shelter” houses more than 2,000 unaccompanied children, and conditions there have been the target of harsh criticism.
Not since the Mariel boatlift has the nation been so riveted — and emotionally divided — by the subject of immigration. In October 1980, Fidel Castro finally agreed to shut down the Miami-bound flotillas after six chaotic months and the arrival of more than 125,000 Cubans, including hundreds of hardened criminals that Castro freed from his prisons.
Today, no one single person can snap his or her fingers and halt what’s happening on the Southern border. Although illegal migrant crossings have declined recently, no one is saying a dire crisis still doesn’t exist.
Trump believes the ICE raids will deter more people from coming. That might be true in the short term, but members of the president’s own team worry about what might go wrong — and there’s plenty.
In June, then-acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan called off the planned raids partly because he was concerned that children who are U.S. citizens may be separated from parents who are undocumented.
In those cases, ICE agents would have to wait in rented hotel rooms with the kids until other relatives could be found to come get them, no matter how long that takes.
Ironically, the president might have undercut his own project by tweeting for weeks about the upcoming arrests, giving the targeted migrants plenty of time to flee the addresses that ICE has on file.
Still the raids will produce enough scenes of anguish to jolt the consciences of many, many Americans, regardless of their politics. How tragic for this country if we cave in to the cold idea that the fastest way to fix a broken immigration system is to break families apart.