Politics & Policy

DHS’s Deportation Announcement Is ‘Fundamentally a Political Exercise’

Border Patrol agents detain illegal immigrants near McAllen, Texas, in August. (John Moore/Getty)

This was the start of the lead story on the Washington Post’s Christmas Eve front page:

The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.

As I told the reporter, I’ll believe it when I see it. A few further thoughts:

Why now? The surge of Central Americans across the border — both adults with kids in tow (who are the subjects of this latest leak) and the “unaccompanied” “minors” who got so much coverage — subsided after the summer of 2014 because the administration bribe-threatened Mexico into doing a better job of policing its own southern border. But now there’s a renewed surge, presumably because Mexico’s zeal is waning and because Central Americans see that the U.S. isn’t deporting many of those who came earlier. Heck, even deportations of criminals are dropping.

Border Patrol statistics show the magnitude of this new surge. In the first two months of the current fiscal year (October and November), border apprehensions of unaccompanied minors were more than double those in the same period last year, and apprehensions of “family units” nearly triple. If the rate continues, the flow of minors will approach the 2014 peak, and the flow of families will exceed it.

RELATED: Number of Unaccompanied Kids Crossing Border Has Doubled in Last Year

In itself, the White House may not consider that a problem, given the administration’s implicit belief that these people have a right to come here. But there’s an election in about 10 months, and not many voters share the Obama crowd’s anti-borders views. That’s why my colleague Dan Cadman notes that “the plan is fundamentally a political exercise.” The Democrats will gather in Philadelphia in late July for Herself’s coronation, and it could prove awkward for her if a renewed surge of illegals across the border is still in the news. Herself’s silence in response to the news of the planned raids, contrasted with Sanders’s and O’Malley’s fulminations against them, suggests she’s in on the whole thing.

Making the border-surge story go away will be one of DHS’s main election-year priorities.

So why the leak? It might seem odd to announce the onset of “raids” that haven’t even been given final approval yet. It could be a trial balloon, a planned leak to gauge public reaction. But more plausible is the theory that I’ve heard from moles inside DHS: A senior official leaked the news specifically to outrage Obama’s leftist base in an effort to prevent the deportations from ever happening.

In immigration matters, the fox guards the henhouse in this administration, from former La Raza VP Cecilia Muñoz directing policy in the White House to former police chief of San Francisco — San Francisco — Heather Fong in charge of DHS dealings with state and local law enforcement (and on the short list to become the next head of the Border Patrol). It is perfectly plausible that one of the many anti-borders zealots appointed to jobs in DHS figured that stopping the deportation of illegal aliens is more important than giving Herself political cover going into the November election.

#share#

Will it work? The short answer is “no.” The Post reports that the “number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.” Hundreds? The illegal-alien families are coming across the border at a rate of about 200 per day, and more than 100,000 have come over the past couple of years. Even if these deportations actually happen, a few hundred is a drop in the bucket and isn’t going to make much of an impression on people in Central America debating whether to head out for the United States.

What does make in impression is news from friends and relatives that they’re all being allowed to stay. When illegals bringing kids with them are apprehended, almost all are released with a notice (which they call a “permiso” or permit to be in the U.S.) instructing them to present themselves on such-and-such a date. It should come as no surprise that few do so. Data from earlier this year show that the overwhelming majority of illegal-alien families just ignore their hearing dates (look for “Absconded from Proceedings“ in Table 1) — and get away with it.

RELATED: The Immigration Debate: Widening the Scope

Even the administration’s efforts to dissuade people from coming have backfired. DHS has been running public-service announcements in Central America warning people not to come because new arrivals are not eligible for Obama’s various unilateral amnesties. They advise that “there are no permits for the people trying to cross the border without papers” and warn of “immediate deportation of those trying to cross the border without documents.” But Hondurans et al. aren’t idiots — their friends and relatives in the U.S. have told them, accurately, that there are permits for people crossing without papers and that there’s no immediate deportation of people from their countries. The lack of credibility earned by such obvious lies means that it will be doubly hard to change the perceptions of prospective illegals.

What to do? There are steps we could take if we actually wanted to stop the surge, though there’s little chance Obama’s minions would even consider them. Congress has authorized “expedited removal” for illegals under certain circumstances, allowing them to be removed without having to go before an immigration judge. This would apply to most of the illegals in question, but Obama’s not using this authority.

Expedited removal doesn’t apply to illegals who seek to avoid deportation by claiming asylum. But even here there’s a first cut, called a “credible fear” determination, to weed out people who shouldn’t even be put in the pipeline for a full evaluation of their claims, allowing their expeditious removal. The problem is that under Obama almost everyone makes the first cut — and few are detained pending the resolution of their claims — so that all you need to say is “asylum,” and you get to stay.

#related#Most basically, an administration could simply force Mexico to take back people who just minutes before crossed through their territory into ours. Mexico is cooperative in receiving back its own citizens who are arrested by the Border Patrol, but not with regard to OTMs (Other Than Mexicans). That means we have to either detain them or let them go and hope they show up for their hearings.

But Canada takes back non-Canadians trying to sneak across our border, and Mexico sends non-Guatemalan Central Americans back across its own southern border with Guatemala. A president interested in controlling illegal immigration would insist on this. Nor should an asylum claim preclude return across the border; genuine asylum seekers would ask for it in the first country they reach, meaning Central Americans should be required to apply in Mexico, not here.

In September, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “We take seriously our obligation to secure our borders.” No one believes that — especially not Central Americans thinking about coming to the United States.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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