Part of the problem involved in the raids that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were scheduled to carry out on Sunday was presidential hype. President Donald Trump has been using the prospect of a massive effort to arrest illegal immigrants as part of his standoff with House Democratic leadership. During the negotiations between the administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump postponed the sweep at least once.
But after House Democrats — with the conspicuous exception of the “squad” led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat — voted for funding to alleviate the desperate situation at the border after a massive surge of illegal immigrants crowded detention facilities, Trump ordered the raids to commence.
Both Sides Are Exaggerating
To judge by the president’s boasts and the avalanche of statements from Democrats denouncing the raids, you might think ICE is in the process of trying to round up all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country and then ship them all back to their countries of origin. Indeed, the dramatic denunciations of the raids by Democratic presidential candidates, members of Congress, and mayors, and governors of so-called sanctuary cities and states more than matched Trump’s hyperbole.
These Democrats depicted the raids as extraordinarily cruel toward illegally present foreigners, describing families as living in terror of a knock at the door in terms that were once reserved for visits by the Gestapo or the KGB. They universally decried the fate of apprehended illegal immigrants as unjust and pitiable, as when the administration vainly sought to deter the flow of illegal immigrants by a policy of “zero tolerance,” in which those illegaly crossing the border with children were arrested.
Both the mainstream media and Democrats portrayed the prospect of ICE “separating families” as unpardonably cruel and insensitive. ICE’s efforts to track down illegal immigrants earned it not just opprobrium from Trump’s critics but widespread calls for its abolition, with Ocasio-Cortez characteristically going one step further with a demand for the end of the Department of Homeland Security. But the truth about these raids is far less dramatic than the rhetoric being heard on either side of the political divide.
This Is the Real Story
Far from a mass roundup, ICE’s responsibility was to find approximately 2,000 illegal immigrants. Nor were the targets randomly chosen to inspire terror among illegally present foreigners or to display a sign of the administration’s lawless lust for retribution against those who break immigration laws.
With a population of 11 million illegal immigrants and some estimates saying as many as 1 million of them are already under court order to leave after receiving due process, the arrest of every one of those on the current list couldn’t even be counted as a drop in the bucket for dealing with the problem.
Moreover, those chosen had already been through the long, tedious process by which the government is forced to prove its case in immigration courts. All have already been ordered out of the country after they had a chance to make their case to be able to stay or even to claim asylum. All of them had broken federal law, received their day in court, and had received court documents telling them they must leave the country.
Nor, despite the talk of jackbooted tactics by ICE agents that fueled inappropriate Holocaust analogies, with the illegal immigrants being described as latter-day versions of Anne Frank, were the authorities granted carte blanche by the courts to bring in their targets by any means. ICE is flatly prohibited from entering the homes of these illegal immigrants. All they can do is knock and ask them to come out and must impotently wait in frustration if no one complies.
It’s true that ICE agents, undaunted by these absurdly restrictive rules of engagement, sometimes engage in tricks aimed at fooling the migrants into coming out of their homes and making themselves vulnerable to arrest. They also are empowered to arrest any other illegal immigrants who are under similar court orders, even if they are not on the list of those they seek.
Put It in Perspective
But no one should expect the raids to yield a massive number of deportations. Since Trump’s Twitter account and the jeremiads of the Democrats have alerted every illegal immigrant under deportation orders of the possible imminent arrival of the authorities, the element of surprise is long gone. Most have fled their homes or gone to ground, resolved not to go out until the perception of danger is passed.
This means the discussion about the raids is much ado about nothing in terms of their effects on the problem of illegal immigration. But Democrats’ desire to demonize anything Trump does, paired with their reaction to these anodyne measures, speaks volumes about how extreme they’ve become about illegal immigration and calls into question their judgment about what will fly with most voters.
It’s one thing to advocate for amnesty for foreign law-breakers who have already been here for many years and have clean records. That especially goes for children who were brought here illegally and have grown up as Americans.
Democrats’ Call for Open Borders
But it is quite another for Democratic leadership to declare, with near unanimity, as is the case with the party’s presidential candidates, that they wish to decriminalize entering the country without permission and to grant those who do so government-paid health care. The same goes with states now offering paid college tuition and driver’s licenses to people who crossed into the country illegally.
Such positions are a neon “welcome” sign on the border that tells those who want to come here without following the rules that there will be no negative consequences for doing so. While liberals say Trump’s claim that they support “open borders” is a lie, there’s no other way to describe the net effects of such policies. Democrats now support treating entering the country illegally as the moral equivalent of jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk.
Even worse, the reaction to the raids also showed how far they’ve come since the Obama presidency. Although Obama sought to give amnesty by executive order to millions of illegal immigrants, he did not seek to impede the legal process by which illegal immigrants could be deported, and more than 3 million were sent out of the country on his watch, with more families separated then than were split last year at the border under Trump. If Trump’s supposed “cruelty” in ordering the eviction of 2,000 is now a heinous act, then it’s clear Obama was more of a Trumpian tyrant than Trump.
Democrats are no longer merely for more liberal laws but now advocate for not enforcing the laws or for no laws about illegal immigration at all. While many Americans have sympathy for those who came here without the American people’s permission and may pity those whose families could be separated by their choices to ignore U.S. law, it’s hard to make the argument that they favor no law at all.
That’s how far the leftist base of their party has taken the Democrats. It’s hard to believe this is good politics any more than it is rational policy.