Trump at DHS
Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Flickr

As a reminder, here is how Donald Trump talked about undocumented immigrants when he was campaigning:

He set himself apart from the other Republican contenders by promising to “deport ’em all.”

Trump occasionally veered from that script and talked about only deporting the worst criminals, which was essentially the Obama administration’s strategy over the last few years. But with John Kelly as Secretary of DHS, they made a point of changing the rules.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday released details on how it will prosecute undocumented immigrants and criminal immigrants under President Trump.

The two memos from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expand immigration raids and the definition of criminal aliens, while diminishing sanctuary areas and enlisting local law enforcement to execute federal immigration policy.

Under the rules, federal officers will no longer consider any category of “removable alien” as exempt from removal, except for those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program started under President Obama.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on the results.

A week after he won the election, President Trump promised that his administration would round up millions of immigrant gang members and drug dealers. And after he took office, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surged 40 percent…

…as ICE officers get wider latitude to determine whom they detain, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. The agency made 37,734 “noncriminal” arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year.

Those numbers have faces.

Virginia mother was sent back to El Salvador in June after her 11 years in the United States unraveled because of a traffic stop. A Connecticut man with an American-born wife and children and no criminal record was deported to Guatemala last week. And an immigration activist in New York, Ravi Ragbir, was detained in January in a case that brought ICE a scathing rebuke from a federal judge.

Much as Chuck Todd predicted in that video above, the Trump administration has run into some barriers in their “deport ’em all” strategy.

…multiple factors have limited the number of arrests the Trump administration can make. Many major cities that don’t agree with the administration’s approach have policies forbidding them to turn over immigrants who have been detained for unrelated violations, and there are simply not enough ICE agents to track down the roughly 11 million people who are in the country illegally. And once ICE arrests someone, there are often formidable obstacles to actually deporting them, most notably an enormous backlog in immigration courts.

As the Senate begins debate on a legislative fix for DACA, a group of extremist Republicans have proposed a bill that mirrors the Trump administration’s wish list in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. It contains all of the things we’ve been hearing about when it comes to the wall and changes to our legal immigration system. But props to the Wall Street Journal for being one of the only media outlets to address how this bill seeks to remove some of the barriers to “deport ’em all.”

It appropriates $25 billion for border security including new barriers—walls or fencing—as well as technology and personnel across immigration agencies

It also seeks to speed deportations for children who cross the border alone and family units, both of whom get special treatment under current law. For instance, children from Central America would have their deportation cases quickly decided, as is the case for children from Mexico today. Under current law, unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries are allowed to see an immigration judge and are often are placed with family while they wait for a court date.

The legislation would also allow family units to be kept in immigration jails while they wait for rulings. It also would allow the jailing of people who the U.S. wants to deport but whose home countries won’t accept them.

Basically they want to speed up the deportation process, and to put children and more adults in detention centers while they await deportation.

As much as the wall is a stupid idea that could waste a lot of money, these are the kinds of changes this administration wants that will affect real human beings by escalating what we’re already witnessing when it comes ramped up deportations. Because it is so inhumane, the administration resorts to lying and fear-mongering about these immigrants the way Trump did in his State of the Union.

As I’ve pointed out before, the Dreamers themselves reject the idea of being used as hostages in order to pass these xenophobic laws. We can have a reasonable conversation about border security and the fate of 11 million undocumented immigrants (which is what the 2013 bipartisan Senate plan addressed). But that is clearly not what Trump and these extremist Republicans want, which is why it’s time to call their bluff and say “no.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.