Mike Littwin: The great American roundup
Fair and Unbalanced
So now it’s official. We can make America great for Americans again. The new rules for ridding our shores of undocumented immigrants are in place and there’s no telling how many of the undocumented 11 million will be deported. It could be millions.
Let’s forget the argument about whether to take Trump literally or seriously. This is as serious as the handwriting on that great big ridiculous wall.
Read it and weep.
The new rules define Donald Trump’s America, which somehow reminds me of Tom Tancredo’s America. Those who will now be prioritized for deportation are basically any and all without papers. Once upon a time (I think it was last month), the Obama administration prioritized convicted criminals, or those who were caught just crossing the border.
Under Trump’s executive order — and the guidelines released last week — you don’t have to be convicted. You just have to be charged. Or, if not charged, have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” For those keeping score, that doesn’t mean, as Trump might say, Mexican rapists. That means anyone, say, driving without a license. And this is a rule for civil libertarians to ponder: Agents can target anyone without papers whom they believe to be dangerous, meaning anyone they choose.
The Dreamers are apparently exempted because, as Trump says, he has a great heart, although during the campaign he had said he would end the “amnesty” provision immediately. But, under these new rules, parents who pay a smuggler to bring their children to the U.S. should be considered accomplices to human trafficking, meaning the whole family gets deported. So maybe not that great a heart.
The list goes on. The category of people who can be returned to their country of origin with expedited deportations — limited during the Obama administration to those picked up within 100 miles of the border who have been here for less than 14 days — has been expanded to those found anywhere who have been here for less than two years. And, as a bonus, the rules make it easier to deport those seeking asylum from gang- and violence-ridden Central America countries and harder for those asylum seekers to prove their case.
If America’s first, it seems, the Statue of Liberty may have to go to the back of the line.
This will cost us, of course, just like the $20 billion (and counting) wall that Mexico won’t pay for. There are the additional 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to be hired and the 5,000 border patrol officers. And the detention centers to be built. And — this is a Trump special to appeal to the hardliners — an office within Immigration and Customs Enforcement to assist families whose relatives have been killed by undocumented immigrants, as if those deaths are more traumatic than any other. And, we’ll assume, there will need to be more buses for the roundups, although, as reported in The Washington Post, senior Homeland Security officials said that now is not the time for anyone to “panic.”
No, they really said that. They said it anonymously, of course, while briefing reporters on the new rules. And if you stop to recall hearing all those people in the Trump administration complaining about anonymous quotes, be assured that they meant only anonymous quotes critical of their policies.
Here’s the money quote from a presumably unpanicked official: “We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination. This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.”
All he/she needed to do was add “believe me,” and you’d know what to do. If the plan isn’t intended to produce mass deportations, what it is intended for? Is it intended to frighten people? Is it intended to push the millions of undocumented immigrants further into the shadows? Is it just a bone to throw to the Republican base? Or is it a precursor to the detention forces? And, in any case, does Trump agree with this assessment any more than he agrees with his national security adviser’s assessment of our relationship with Russia?
You also might note that the anonymous official said he/she didn’t have the “personnel, time or resources,” but didn’t say Trump/Sessions/Kelly etc. didn’t have the desire to do it or intention to make those resources available.
And that’s where the rest of us come in. Because the new rules also will amp up the coming Trump v. “sanctuary city” wars, the ultimate red-blue battle. Trump tweeted out a poll today showing that Americans overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary cities. He didn’t mention that people overwhelmingly don’t have any idea what it actually means to be a so-called sanctuary city. Or that the same poll shows that what Americans do overwhelmingly support is immigration reform, which doesn’t necessarily mean rounding folks up and sending them out of the country. At least last time I checked.
Under the new rules, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would revive a program that basically deputizes local law enforcement officers to assist in deportation efforts. The problem with the plan is that a large percentage of those who could be deported live in cities like, say, Denver where they severely limit cooperation with federal immigration agents.
Of course, Trump has threatened to take away federal grant money from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate. This will end up in court. San Francisco has already sued. Denver has sought a legal opinion which says the order is probably not enforceable.
Meanwhile, undocumented immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra, who has lived in America for 20 years, made national headlines when she took residence in the basement of a Denver church where she had sought sanctuary. As of today, Vizguerra may have to make room for many more.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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