USA Today (Editorial)
February 21, 2017
No one who listened to Donald Trump’s campaign speeches should be surprised by recent immigration raids across the country or the tough new policies announced Tuesday.
President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants will cast a far wider net than President Obama’s did, though Obama deported more immigrants than any other president. The new guidelines could potentially ensnare millions of immigrants who entered the United States illegally but since then have abided by the law, worked for a living and raised families in a country they now call home.
To the extent that the policies place these immigrants in fear, break up families and leave children to fend for themselves, they are wrongheaded and unnecessarily cruel. Only more time and more actions will clarify just how harsh the written policies will be when executed by enforcement authorities.
At least for now, there is one hopeful sign: The new directive exempts more than 750,000 young people brought to the U.S. as children by undocumented relatives. These people, often known as “dreamers,” can remain to attend school or work.
How long that will last, though, is anybody’s guess.
Let DACA program lapse: Opposing view
As for the rest of the policy, it is just about everything many Trump supporters clamored for. It broadens the categories of undocumented immigrants who will be targets and increases the number who can be deported without hearings.
Deporting immigrants who pose a danger because they’ve been convicted of serious crimes makes sense. So does going after felons trying to take refuge in "sanctuary cities." And taking action against those who’ve committed fraud, such as abusing federal benefit programs, is also entirely defensible.
But the policy announced Tuesday threatens people who've previously had little to fear: People who've committed misdemeanors, say shoplifting or traffic violations. People charged but not yet tried, who under our system are viewed as innocent until proven guilty. People whom authorities encounter and consider a threat, an absurdly broad category.
Recent raids gave the country a taste of what this approach might look like. In Georgia and the Carolinas, the government picked up about 170 undocumented immigrants with criminal records or previous deportations. Fine. But authorities also swept up about 20 undocumented “suspects” with no record of such crimes. They'll be handled on a case-by-case basis, but their fates for now are unknown.
Do most Americans really want stepped-up raids and roundups? Not according to polls. More than 60% believe undocumented immigrants should be able to stay and eventually apply for citizenship, and 13% more say they should stay without a shot at citizenship, according to a CBS News poll of 1,257 adults nationwide last month.
It's possible, even likely, that the most abusive parts of the new program will run headlong into financial reality. The policy calls for hiring 10,000 new agents, assigning more immigration judges and building additional detention facilities in a system that is already overwhelmed. All that takes time and will require billions of dollars more from taxpayers.
A more realistic approach to immigration would target employers who hire illegal workers, crack down on visa overstays, and deport only those who pose a real threat to public safety. But realism seems far removed from the debate about walls and deportations.
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