Sunday’s planned deportation raids have nothing to do with effectively enforcing immigration laws. Instead, they have everything to do with Trump inciting his mob of followers, who I’m sure get no small pleasure from the idea of instilling fear among migrants and sending armed agents into liberal bastions.
There is nothing wrong with deportation in and of itself. There is nothing wrong with tightly enforcing immigration laws. Government officials have told reporters that they are primarily targeting migrants who entered the country a year ago and who received final deportation orders. (Although, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging bureaucratic malfeasance, including the failure to notify migrants of their deportation status or to fully inform them of their right to claim asylum.)
Immigration enforcement, because of Congress’s abject failure to pass comprehensive reform, has largely been left to the discretion of the executive branch. Barack Obama, as has been pointed out, holds the current record for most deportations. But he did that while ordering that the bureaucracies charged with immigration enforcement exercised discretion—and, of course, while not engaging in demagoguery. Now we’re learning the hard way that executive discretion over a broken system can also be brutally exploited by an unscrupulous president.
What makes these raids even more disgraceful is that Trump is using them as a campaign prop. His intention was made obvious when he loudly announced the raids ahead of time (remember when Trump became publicly irate after the Oakland mayor did exactly that?). Telegraphing the raids will obviously make them less effective than they otherwise would’ve been if they came as a surprise. But in exchange for undermining ICE’s effectiveness, Trump gets to pose as a strongman while painting the opposition as uniformly in favor of “open borders.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump incited violence against individuals and groups at several of his rallies. This weekend is more of the same, but against a much larger group of people. And it’s being done in all our names.