Alarming data … dark rhetoric

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) lives to breathe another day, the travel ban remains blocked by the courts.

Easy to think the scattershot of deportation stories are random events.

Not so fast.

The full force of the January border and interior enforcement executive orders have become clear.

Look, I understand Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has a job to do. It is an important job. And, I know the overwhelming majority of ICE and CBP officers are honorable people. But the “deportation force” the administration is putting into place does very little to improve our national security — particularly since law enforcement expertise is being taken from public safety threats to detain increasing numbers of individuals without criminal convictions.

To begin, the administration has expanded the range of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation. As reported by Reuters, “Between March 1 and May 31, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to a Reuters’ analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review. The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016.”

This is on top of the 5,441 undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions deported in the first two months of the administration, as reported by the Washington Post in late April.

And the Atlantic reported, “Between January 22 and April 29, ICE conducted around 10,800 ‘non-criminal arrests,’ compared to just 4,200 in 2016 — an increase of more than 150 percent.”

Finally, in the coming days, the administration may deport hundreds of Chaldean Christians from Iraq to a country where they are sure to be persecuted at the hands of terrorists.

The alarming data is exceeded only by the darkness of the rhetoric.

Acting Director of ICE Tom Homan testified in support of the administration’s $7.6 billion budget request for the agency — a $1.2 billion increase — and said, “If you’re in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder.”

Let’s be honest. The only thing standing between Homan’s statements and increased deportation numbers is a record backlog of nearly 600,000 cases in the immigration courts.

Where, according to analysts from Syracuse University, “Most of the new cases filed in Immigration Court this fiscal year involve noncitizens charged by DHS with committing an immigration violation rather than involved in any criminal activity.”

They continued, “Only 1.7% of all cases were individuals charged as having committed an aggravated felony, while an additional 4.1% were charged with engaging in less serious criminal activity that allegedly made them deportable.” And, “Not a single person so far this year has been charged as being deportable because the individual endorsed or espoused terrorist activity, or were alleged likely to engage in terrorist activities.”

To detain thousands of individuals who are not public safety threats does nothing keep our nation safe.

Homan admitted as much at the hearing last week when he attempted to prove a negative, “If we wait for [an undocumented immigrant] to violate yet another law against a citizen of this country then it’s too late. We shouldn’t wait for them to become a criminal.”

As this trend continues, it will be increasingly difficult for federal and local law enforcement experts to prioritize their work on actual threats. ICE and CBP officers will be saddled with arbitrary detention quotas, local law enforcement will be publicly attacked for following the law (much less, implementing best practices).

What ICE is driving isn’t about public safety or national security.

It is about turning the American public against immigrants and immigration.

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.