Dumbed-Down Immigration Enforcement

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on March 29, 2010

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau's practice under Obama administration priorities is resulting in fewer overall deportations. That amounts to a law enforcement agency being hindered to the point of going soft on crime.

The Washington Post has exposed internal ICE communications that show a significant drop in removals. The Obama administration has overemphasized "serious criminal" aliens and drastically relaxed putting nonviolent and immigration violators into removal proceedings. As some of us warned, these distorted priorities have created an environment in which illegal aliens of many types enjoy effective amnesty. The Post cited an ICE official that "total deportations were set to barely top 310,000, 'well under the Agency's goal of 400,000,' and nearly 20 percent behind last year's total of 387,000." [Emphasis in original.]

At least removals of criminal aliens, a portion of whom are also illegally present in the United States, have gone up. The Post story gave recent removal data: "Deportations of convicted criminals climbed 19 percent in 2009 and are on pace to climb 40 percent this year, while deportations of noncriminal illegal immigrants fell 3 percent and are on pace to drop 33 percent this year, agency officials said." The liberal Washington newspaper loosely used the term "noncriminal illegal immigrants."

Displaying its bias, the Post insinuated the false notion that those who break "only" immigration law aren't criminal offenders. Open-borders types would prefer people to think that only aliens who commit robbery, rape, murder, or some other such offense are truly criminals, whether or not they broke U.S. immigration statutes. This mindset regards certain favored classes of lawbreakers as victims. It views immigration law as less important to enforce than, say, insider-trading, antitrust, or campaign-finance laws – which may also carry criminal penalties. Or worse, this attitude considers illegal immigration a "victimless crime."

An unnamed ICE source gave the reporters what they needed to downplay the importance of removing more mundane immigrant lawbreakers than murderers and rapists only: "Instead of taking a day to prepare a case against a legal resident with multiple convictions for serious crimes, agents may choose to process a drunk driver or nonviolent offender who agrees to leave the country voluntarily, because it will take only hours." Excuse me, but why shouldn't we kick out as many imported lawbreakers as possible, regardless of the offense? Don't we have enough home-grown criminals? Moreover, except for overstaying a temporary visa, illegal immigration itself is a criminal offense in nearly every instance.

Removing less severe alien lawbreakers on a routine basis, including those whose primary law violations are immigration offenses, could reduce the occurrence of worse violations. The "broken windows" and "zero-tolerance" policing strategy made New York City a livable place once more. In the immigration context, "attrition through enforcement" has shown itself an equally cost-effective means of reducing the illegal alien population. It's a shame the administration has fettered the main immigration law enforcement agency from carrying out this most appealing strategy.