By Joe Guzzardi
August 28. 2017
President Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has set off a firestorm of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. At the core of the Arpaio controversy, both during his six terms in office from 1993 to 2016, and after his 2017 criminal contempt of court conviction, has been immigration law enforcement.
Taking no position on the validity of the claims and counter-claims on behalf of or against Arpaio, the merits or folly of his conviction and ultimate pardon, the crux of the matter is that while in office Arpaio enforced immigration law. During eight of his 24 years as sheriff, 2009-2016, President Obama looked askance at immigration laws both at the border and in the interior. The longer Arpaio remained as Maricopa County’s sheriff and defied President Obama, the more determined the White House, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other pro-immigration advocacy groups became to unseat him.
President Obama’s open borders world view has had dramatic national consequences. Through social media, the word went out across the globe – get to the United States, and the chance of removal is slim or none. In 2016, illegal immigrant border crossings were nearly 40 percent higher than the record year of 2014, and double the 2015 pace. Much of the increase came after then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced new, more relaxed rules for detaining illegal immigrants which became known as catch-and-release.
A frustrated National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest that DHS advised him that it had no plans to end catch-and-release, and continuing it encouraged more illegal immigration. Catch-and-release directly violates existing federal law. Under Title 8 USC 1222, if an immigration officer encounters an illegal alien who has not been legally admitted “the alien shall be detained for a proceeding.” In U.S. law, “shall” means imperative or mandatory, something that must be done.
Nevertheless, said Judd during his same congressional testimony, the Obama administration took nonenforcement to dizzying heights. From Judd’s testimony: “If you are an unaccompanied minor we will not only release you, but will escort you to your final destination. If you are a family unit, we will release you. If you claim credible fear, we will release you. If you are a single male and we do not physically see you cross the border and you claim that you have been in this country since 2014, we will release you.”
Many of these unaccompanied minors had ties to MS-13, skipped their immigration hearings and have been linked to gang violence in Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. A Washington Examiner story reported that DHS admitted to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that since 2009 it has apprehended about 122,700 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but has only deported about 7,700, or 6 percent.
According to federal data, because the White House took a hands-off approach to enforcement, during 2014 and 2015 about 550,000 illegal immigrants entered each year, a total of 1.1 million for the period, and a significant increase over the 2012 and 2013 unlawful entries, 350,000 annually or 700,000. On average, according to the same federal statistics, illegal immigrant arrivals were between 300,000 and 400,000 during the eight-year Obama presidency.
Regardless of what individual opinions may be about how Arpaio may have performed his duties or the wisdom of the Trump pardon, enforcing immigration law is not up for debate. Without enforcement, the historic American nation ceases to exist.