When Did Immigration Enforcement Become News?

Since it stopped occurring

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 4, 2017

On November 25, 2017, the Boston Globe published an article captioned "Fear of Trump crackdown haunts undocumented immigrants". The article is remarkable because it treats law enforcement as if it were news.

One paragraph in that article synopsizes the whole:

This shift toward harsher treatment of immigrants has been one of the most tangible, and disruptive, actions of Trump's first year in office. Along with rising numbers of deportations, the accompanying worry and uncertainty in immigrant neighborhoods is its most tangible byproduct.

The article is written to tug at the heartstrings: the mother of three U.S. citizen children who entered illegally 12 years ago (sobbing as her two-year-old daughter attempts to dry her tears) whose family wears "dirtier clothes" because she is avoiding going out to the laundromat; her boyfriend who was arrested by ICE because he "was driving home from his construction job and got into a minor car accident"; workers in the "low-wage workforce, in restaurants and pizza parlors, or the arduous, unrewarding work of picking apples or berries before moving on to another seasonal job"; the illegal alien who was arrested at home and who apparently came to the attention of ICE for "two prior citations for driving without a license"; the illegal alien kitchen workers arrested at the Chinese restaurant who "played soccer on their one day off a week, and generally stuck to themselves"; the high school class salutatorian who "is a prolific musician, playing in the local orchestra" and currently covered by DACA.

Opposing them is a heartless force: officers with handcuffs; the "ICE agents [who] lay in wait and promptly apprehended the workers [at the aforementioned Chinese restaurant], the same ones who had cooked ICE agents' food and washed their plates"; agents who are allegedly "profiling Hispanics and picking up folks randomly with the pretext of a traffic stop or, more commonly 'looking for someone else' that no one has ever heard of". They work for a president who "promised as a candidate to deport by the millions, just like Dwight Eisenhower's 'Operation Wetback' campaign starting in 1954, which rounded up Mexicans in wholesale fashion." The latter reference is particularly subtle, linking a slur to a president despite there being no proof he ever used it.

The locals don't come out much better: the unidentified "woman at the Price Rite discount grocery store, who [allegedly] shouted at [the mother of three] as she spoke in Spanish to her son, saying, 'You're in America! You have to talk English!'"; the 75-year-old "first-generation immigrant" whose parents came from Italy and who states, "The Mexican worker works hard. There's no doubt about it. ... But they drink hard and they commit a lot of crimes hard when they're off" and who "feels bitter about how much is going to educate the children of undocumented immigrants" when his taxes go up; the homeowners who had Trump signs on their front lawns, which they hired an illegal alien to cut.

Fear of getting caught breaking the law is the strongest deterrence to criminality. Take the most common example.

In my experience, many if not most people violate the posted highway speed limits, for a simple reason: There are more cars on the highway than police officers to arrest speeders, by a factor of more than 100 to one. Few if any drivers, however, violate the speed limit when they see an actual squad car.

This is true even when a trooper is standing beside another vehicle issuing a ticket. The flashing lights seemingly act as a speed limit sign, ordering drivers to slow to five miles below the limit. I often wonder if the cars brake in this manner because of concerns that the officer will spot them, leave the driver previously stopped, and hop in the police car to pursue them. It's that silly, but also that effective.

I believe that most people are basically good and moral, but there are many crimes (minor and major) that any number of us would commit if we thought we could get away with them, because we would act in our own self-interest without rules. In Federalist 51, Madison stated it most famously: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." The implication is clear: Men are not angels, and so need government, and government's rules. The corollary is that those rules need to be enforced or are meaningless; when men are left to act in that pure self-interest, chaos follows.

For some reason, however, the Boston Globe believes that immigration enforcement is somehow sui generis, and that the very thought of it brings both the president and our immigration enforcement officers in line for opprobrium. Lest you think I am being hyperbolic, the following paragraphs actually appear in the article:

Unlike his predecessor, who focused deportations on immigrants with a criminal history, Trump wants undocumented people of all kinds to be found, detained, and sent back to their home countries even if they have not committed a felony in the United States. He signed an executive order putting the new policy into effect just days after his inauguration, fulfilling a central campaign promise.

Now just being in the United States without government permission is grounds for being targeted by federal authorities.

Well, I would hope so — that is the law, and such enforcement is what we pay those "federal authorities" to do.

Specifically, with respect to the law, section 212(a)(6)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states: "In general.-An alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled, or who arrives in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is inadmissible."

Enforcing that law is part of the job those agents are sworn to perform. The website for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contains a section captioned "New Employee Orientation Information". In that section is a page captioned "What to Expect on your First Day". It begins:

In-Processing Orientation


Oath of Office and Appointment Affidavit Signing

The oath of office for federal government employees, which is set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 3331, states:

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: "I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." (Emphasis added.)

Literally, the first official act of an ICE officer on the first day of the job is to take this oath. And, just to underscore it, the officer taking this oath specifically swears (to God, no less) that the officer "will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office" he or she is about to undertake, as emphasized above.

What are those duties? The "careers" page on the ICE website describes the mission of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO):

ERO enforces U.S. immigration law at, within, and beyond our borders. ERO's work is critical to the enforcement of immigration law against those who present a danger to our national security, are a threat to public safety, or who otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration system. ERO operations target public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have otherwise violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives. (Emphasis added.)

The clause beginning "including" should not be read as limiting; it does not restrict the clause that appears before it, which I have highlighted. Similarly, the page describing the duties of deportation officers states:

As a deportation officer with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), you will uphold U.S. immigration law at, within, and beyond our borders. Your work is critical to the enforcement of immigration law against those who present a danger to our national security, are a threat to public safety, or who otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration system.

You will use smart, efficient strategies and tactics to manage all aspects of the immigration enforcement process, including the identification and arrest, transportation, detention, case management and removal of aliens.

You will conduct legal research to support decisions on removal cases and assist attorneys in representing the government in court actions. You may also work with other federal law enforcement officials to identify, locate and arrest aliens and are responsible for ensuring the physical removal of aliens from the United States. (Emphasis added.)

Although these pages go into detail about the more exciting cases that ERO Deportation Officers handle, the fact is that the vast majority of aliens those officers will "identif[y], arrest, transport[], det[ain] ... and remov[e]" are aliens who entered illegally, in violation of section 212(a)(6)(A)(i) of the INA.

In reality, the only reason that the Boston Globe sent someone to York, Pa., to report on immigration enforcement there is because of the real story that it should have reported, but failed to, in the years prior to January 20, 2017: the non-enforcement of the immigration laws by the Obama administration.

A February 2014 article in National Review described some of those non-enforcement actions, and linked to a comprehensive 16-page timeline detailing them, which was compiled by then-Senator (and now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions. Significantly, however, both that article and the timeline were issued before the most egregious of the former administration's non-enforcement actions: the November 20, 2014, memorandum by then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on "Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants".

That memorandum effectively barred immigration officers from placing almost all non-criminal (and many criminal) aliens in removal proceedings, under the guise of "prioritizing" limited immigration resources.

Returning to the speeding analogy, imagine if the City of Boston decided that because its crime situation had gotten so out of control that it had to prioritize law enforcement. Under the city's new policy, police officers could no longer make arrests for any driving-related infractions unless the driver was a threat to national security, a known gang member, an individual previously convicted of a felony (other than driving-related felonies), an individual previously convicted of a specified "aggravated felony", an individual convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses (other than minor traffic offenses or state or local offenses for which an essential element was the individual's driving, and provided the offenses arose out of three separate incidents), an individual convicted of a specified "significant misdemeanor", a new driver, or a driver who the police commissioner himself had determined had significantly abused the driving privilege.

Under this new regime, the new speed limit would be as fast as the driver could go (and that the car would tolerate), and the new limit for driving under the influence would be "unconscious", up from its current "percentage, by weight, of alcohol in the[] blood of eight one-hundredths or greater", or .08 BAC. Speeding and DUI would still be crimes, of course (no reasonable legislator would dare take them off the books), they just wouldn't be enforced. One can scarcely imagine how quickly the Boston Globe would respond to this new policy. Theoretically, the front page would be splashed with stories about unsafe roads and the shortsighted foolishness of city officials. I was unable to find, however, any such articles in that paper decrying the Obama administration's failure to enforce the immigration laws.

Instead, the paper in April 2016 distributed what the Huffington Post described as "a paper with a fake front page" that imagined what the world would look like on April 9, 2017, with one Donald J. Trump in the White House. The short version: It would be doubleplusungood, man! The headline? "DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN". The implication is that they had never occurred before (plainly erroneous) or that they had largely taken a hiatus. Which, under the Obama administration, they had.

Despite this fact, the Globe had previously criticized what feeble enforcement actions ICE took under the previous administration. In an August 2015 article captioned "Deportation push seems at odds with Obama's promise", the paper implicitly criticized the agency's arrest of removable aliens without criminal records:

Advocates for immigrants say locking up noncriminals is damaging Homeland Security's credibility. The agency has urged cities and towns to help officials deport criminals, but over 300 communities across the United States — including Boston, Somerville and, last week, Lawrence — have limited police cooperation with ICE after the secretive agency targeted immigrants with little to no criminal records.

"Secretive"? This article makes it seem as though ICE was sending removable aliens to gulags or reeducation camps. Aliens appear in immigration court five days a week. Those hearings are open to the public, with extremely limited exceptions, most of which protect the alien or victims. And, the agency's nondisclosure of information is meant to protect the privacy of the alien, not the malfeasance of ICE.

When I was in college, the rule was that if a professor was more than 10 minutes late, class was canceled and the students could leave. Each of us would anxiously watch the clock waiting (and hoping) for that 10 minutes to elapse. During one such wait, a fellow student joked that education was "the only thing you paid for that you hoped you got less of." The Boston Globe would apparently add immigration enforcement to that list, and applaud the agents who would voluntarily violate their oaths of office.