Two recent immigration enforcement-related items got my attention and led to contemplation:
- A January 31 article in the Huffington Post titled "ICE Chief Will 'Never Back Down' From Telling Undocumented Immigrants To Be Afraid"; and
- A new January 10 policy promulgated by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) titled "Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions Inside Courthouses", which has stirred controversy with its public release.
It's worth spending a bit of time discussing each.
Huffington Post Article. The lion's share of the HuffPo article deals with Homan's remarks suggesting that illegal aliens have a reason to fear arrest:
ICE under Homan's watch has received much criticism from immigrant rights groups and some Democratic politicians for an uptick in arrests of unauthorized immigrants without criminal convictions. Those critics deride the Trump administration's tactics as unfocused, saying they breed fear in immigrant communities. Some local law enforcement officials, including some of the police chiefs and sheriffs for the largest cities and counties in Texas, have also warned that indiscriminate deportation efforts make immigrants distrustful of local cops.
It's worth putting Homan's words into context, and that context specifically relates to the kind of dilettantish, eviscerating leadership ICE suffered under the Obama administration. A whole series of ICE directors made known their indifference to, or ignorance about, enforcing immigration laws, even though that was at least in theory why they were placed in charge of a federal law enforcement organization. One former director went so far as to say that "If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it's just highly unlikely to happen."
Can you imagine a highway patrol chief saying speeders or drunk drivers on the highway are unlikely to be caught? It's unimaginable because such a chief would understand his words were going to be interpreted as a license to break important highway safety laws.
The HuffPo article also suggests some police chiefs and sheriffs warn that "indiscriminate deportation efforts make immigrants distrustful of local cops." There is absolutely no empirical evidence to prove such statements. None. What's more, use of the word "indiscriminate" (a value-laden word, if ever there was one) is itself designed by the journalist to cast doubt on Homan, his agency, and its policies.
What you are also not being told is that, by and large, the police chiefs and sheriffs who make such assertions are in charge of sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with — in fact, actively obstruct — ICE efforts to take criminal aliens into custody in the secure environs of their own stations and jails. Thus, they have a vested interest in making claims that, though unproven, tend to "prove" the validity of their scofflaw position where immigration law is concerned.
Think for a moment about the consequence of such policies on the part of sanctuary jurisdictions. When their police or sheriffs release a criminal alien onto the streets of the community, they put members of that community at risk. As often as not, the alien's return will be to an immigrant neighborhood, so that if the criminal reoffends, it is other immigrants who will be the newest victims of the recidivist's offenses. That kind of irresponsible policy is more likely to cause distrust of local cops than anything ICE does.
And when ICE is obliged to play "catch up" to find the newly released alien in his environs, such as his home, then if there are other illegal aliens present at the time who don't happen to be criminals, they will inevitably be swept up into the ICE net. ICE officers don't have the luxury of ignoring aliens who are in their presence and are in the United States in violation of law. Engaging in that kind of conduct is a violation of their oath of office and malfeasance of the worst sort. Thus, such arrests become collateral to the central point of being there — finding and apprehending the criminal alien that the police could have turned over to federal agents at the jail in the first place, thus avoiding the widened net of arrests.
In sum, this HuffPo article is the kind of superficial, biased analysis that is typical of the worst sort of media coverage where immigration enforcement is concerned — the kind designed to curb intelligent discussion instead of fostering it.
The ICE Courthouse Policy. This policy formalizes a practice that has taken shape in the past couple of years — that of taking deportable criminal aliens into custody in state and county courthouses when they appear for trial or sentencing for their various offenses. I have spoken about this practice before, as well as the absurd and hypocritical reactions to it from some members of the judiciary, in one instance appearing to go so far as violating the federal laws against harboring and shielding aliens from detection.
The practice, like the one I discussed previously in relation to the HuffPo article, has arisen as an ICE reaction to sanctuary jurisdictions. When those jurisdictions steadfastly refuse to honor ICE detainers or otherwise cooperate in taking custody of alien criminals for removal within police stations and county jails (in what is in my view a clear violation of the provisions of 8 U.S.C. Sections 1373 and 1644), then ICE agents are obliged to find other ways to do their duty. As discussed, one way takes place on streets and in residences, though these are not the most ideal of circumstances since they carry an inherently heightened risk to officers and bystanders.
Another alternative, though, that has a significantly reduced risk to officers and the public is by arresting aliens in courthouses, where the aliens may not be confined in the same way as in a jail, but at least will have been searched for guns or other weapons before being permitted access to the courts. There is little that anyone can do to prohibit ICE agents from showing up in courts because, despite the security screening that takes place, courthouses are essentially open to the public.
Jurists and others who loudly proclaim that this practice somehow subverts the criminal justice system because it may cause aliens to abscond from trial are missing the point. The point is this: State and local governments may be able to enact laws that exact penalties for violating the criminal laws, but the United States in its sovereign power also has the right to say that aliens who have violated certain laws forfeit the right to live in or remain in the country; they have worn out their welcome and should be shown the door. This is a right specifically reserved under the Constitution to the federal government, not the states.
What sanctuary apologists seem to be saying is that it's okay to bend the criminal justice system to accommodate aliens in ways that would never be done for citizens. It's not. An alien who fails to show for his criminal proceeding simply on the premise that he may be taken into custody by ICE was probably a poor prospect for a criminal bail bond to begin with.
So I say kudos to Director Homan, kudos to the agency for finally taking a stand, and kudos to the agents who refuse to take "no" for an answer. Justice takes many forms, and one of them must be allowed to play out in the context of immigration proceedings, where aliens are concerned. No excuses.