The unprecedented numbers of illegal immigrants pouring across our Southern border have led some to upgrade the situation there from “crisis” to “existential threat.” The magnitude of the problem, they feel, threatens to undermine America’s success as an immigration nation. And they want solutions.
Until now, America has been an undisputed immigration success story. More people immigrate here than to any other country in the world – and it’s not even close. Historically, we’ve also taken in more refugees than any other nation. Today, we are welcoming refugees from some 60 different countries.
Americans should be proud of this record – and we are. But we also want immigration done right.
Americans worry about the safety of would-be immigrants who are lured into risking dangerous passage to our country with the connivance of exploitative “coyotes.” We fret over the unfairness of illegals “jumping the line,” while millions wait patiently to come to the U.S. legally. We worry about the security threats – from crime to disease, to terrorism – of unregulated border crashing. And we are concerned about the rising economic burden of illegal migration.
President Trump’s challenge is to convince the American people that he is the one who takes their concerns seriously. If he wants to be seen as the leader most committed to solving this mess, he has less than two years to show he has tried everything in his power to do so.
The administration has already done a good deal. The president swapped out the senior leadership team at Homeland Security. He declared a crisis on the border. He scrambled to find money to build the wall. The Department of Justice has looked for ways to close loopholes that multitudes have used to slip into unlawful residency. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has moved to crack down on illegal immigrants in public housing.
Yet more can be done to explicitly make clear that the White House is determined to go the extra mile to save the world’s greatest immigration nation.
Illegal immigration comes with a big sticker price – the cost of providing public services to people who are not lawfully present in the U.S. Here is one way to lower those costs.
More than a million individuals remain in this country illegally, even though they have a valid deportation order requiring them to leave and they have exhausted all possible appeals. The president should dedicate the remainder of his term to finding and deporting them.
There is no clearer, concrete and valid metric for demonstrating a commitment to enforcing the law. There is also no better deterrent to illegal border crossing. Why take the risk, if you won’t be allowed to stay?
The administration should also get tougher on transnational gang activity. While sanctuary cities are becoming magnets for criminals, other jurisdictions want to work with the federal government to crack down on transnational gangs. In partnership with cooperative state and local law enforcement agencies, the feds should launch a six-month campaign to go after the gangs. This would show what can be done when governments take public safety seriously and work together to make our streets safer.
Finally, while the other side wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Trump should go bold and put enforcement on steroids – merging Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE into one monster enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. There shouldn’t be a magic line of 100 miles where CBP responsibilities stop and ICE begins.
A key component of ICE is Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Arguably ERO would work far more efficiently if fully integrated into the mission expediting the removal of persons apprehended at the border. Another key component is Homeland Security Investigations, which ought to focus almost exclusively on border threats and immigration violations.