As I’ve posted in the past, the Trump administration’s combining stepped up enforcement with skillful public information campaigns in Central America have reduced attempts to cross the border with Mexico to near record levels without spending a single dollar on a wall or on more Border Patrol agents. In short, it shows that our current laws are sufficient to make major headway towards border security so long as someone, like Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, has the guts to enforce them.
The number of arrests on the U.S.-Mexico border plummeted in March to the lowest level in 17 years — a strong suggestion that Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric is scaring away foreigners who might otherwise try to enter the United States illegally. In addition, part of a lesser-known executive order that Trump signed in January gave federal immigration agents broad leeway to arrest virtually any undocumented immigrant they encounter.
Granted, Trump’s splashiest immigration promises — the border wall and two successive bans on immigrants from various majority-Muslim nations — have been stymied by Congress and the courts. And Tuesday, Trump received another setback when a district court judge blocked a directive denying federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to help enforce federal immigration laws.
But the president has nonetheless reshaped the nation’s immigration policy substantially.
“Even without putting down one single brick,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that favors lower immigration levels, “Trump has dramatically altered the flow across the southern border.”
One of the biggest changes was brought on by Trump’s executive order which basically changed everything about the rules Obama had in place. While ICE focuses on deporting criminal aliens, there is no safe harbor for any illegal.
About half of the 675 immigrants picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office either had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
The largest single group — 163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses — was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.
The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.
The two-month total represents a 32 percent increase in deportation arrests over the same period last year. Most are criminals, administration officials have said. But 5,441 were not criminals, double the number of undocumented immigrants arrested for deportation a year earlier. The administration has released a detailed breakdown of the criminal records only of the raids in early February.
Democrats in Congress and people who are in favor of unfettered illegal immigration (there is a lot of overlap in that Venn Diagram) are angry but Kelly and his department are not backing down:
“As Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” said ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea, referring to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
Kelly, a retired Marine general, shot back at congressional critics last week in a speech at George Washington University.
“If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ Kelly said. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.’’