By Joe Guzzardi
February 21, 2017
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly’s newly signed immigration orders have set off cries of outrage from advocacy groups. Kelly, defending his action, pointed to the southern border crisis that has overwhelmed border patrol agents and “created a significant national security threat to the United States.” The border surge is at least three years old, and accelerated dramatically during President Obama’s administration.
Critics immediately responded with condemnation. The National Immigration Law Center’s executive director Marielena Hincapié called Kelly’s memos “breathtaking,” but used the word with its unflattering connotation.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s senior legislative counsel Joanne Lin said in a statement to The Washington Post that “due process, human decency, and common sense are treated as inconvenient obstacles on the path to mass deportation. The Trump administration is intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country.”
Putting the inflammatory rhetoric aside, Kelly’s proposals are reasonable, long overdue and have the support of the American majority who understand the negative implications of years of lawlessness. Under Kelly’s new guidelines, immigration officials could seek the expedited removal of aliens who have lived in the U.S. for up to two years. Obama limited alien removal only to those in the country for two weeks or less.
Another Kelly change seeks to slow the ever-increasing border surge from Mexico and Central America. Parents living in the U.S. that paid coyotes to smuggle their children across the border can now be prosecuted, and amnesty petitions must be adjudicated after the alien has been deported back to his country of origin and not, as has been the recent practice, after the apprehended alien has been released into the general public.
Perhaps most important, Kelly’s memos authorize the border patrol chief to begin hiring up to 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and 5,000 more border patrol officers. Kelly will aim to restore 287(g), a successful program that allowed local law enforcement officers, including state troopers, with special ICE training to work with federal immigration authorities to detain and remove dangerous aliens.
Originally signed by President Clinton, and expanded by George W. Bush, Obama mostly scuttled 287(g) along with another effective enforcement tool, Secure Communities. Kelly, a retired Marine Corp General who once accurately called Washington politics a cesspool, promised to expand 287(g) to the greatest possible extent. During the period it was implemented, 287(g) had the endorsement of the nation’s sheriffs, along with support from the DHS Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.
Kelly’s enforcement era will have direct and indirect benefits. As a direct result of Kelly’s new orders, more illegal immigrants will be deported. The indirect consequences are two-fold. First, some aliens will choose to self-deport, that is, leave at the time of their choosing and under the circumstances that are most favorable to them, and not ordered out by ICE agents. Second, knowing that the new administration is dedicated to adhering to the rule of law, fewer illegal immigrants will come.
Mexico, from which many illegal immigrants have come in recent years, has accepted the new Trump reality. Marcela Celorio, Mexico’s consul general in San Diego, said that her country respects Trump, but it’s prepared when necessary to help Mexican illegal immigrants in the U.S. through its vast consular network. Celorio admitted, however, that Mexico is “prepared to take them back.”
Regardless of whether Americans are pro or con immigration, the Obama administration’s purposeful enforcement gutting needed to be halted. When Congress passes immigration laws, obeying them should not be optional.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.