- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 16, 2015

GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump proposed a broad crackdown on illegal immigrants Sunday, including tripling the number of deportation officers and building a border wall, as new numbers show illegal crossings on the Southwest border are beginning to swell again.

Mr. Trump, who has driven much of the immigration conversation since announcing his candidacy two months ago, said he would demand Mexico pay for the new fencing by impounding the wages earned by their illegal immigrants here in the U.S., and would eliminate tax breaks some illegal immigrants can currently claim in order to pay the new deportation officers he’d hire.

He also said he would end the policy of “birthright citizenship,” which grants full American status to almost anyone born here, including to illegal immigrant mothers, and he insisted illegal immigrants here right now must be sent home, though most could quickly apply for re-entry.

“They have to go,” Mr. Trump told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program in an interview aired Sunday, saying the fundamental definition of being a country rested on being able to decide who’s let in.

The billionaire businessman also said he would rethink legal immigration, imposing new standards on businesses to ensure they only hire legal workers, and insisting that businesses try to find Americans before turning to foreign workers.

The plan drew fierce condemnation from immigrant rights advocates, who said he was trying to erase fundamental constitutional protections.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump releases his immigration policy on his GOP presidential campaign website

Trump’s immigration proposals are as dangerous as they are stunning,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a leading advocacy group. “Trump proposes to round up 11 million hardworking immigrants, a population the size of the state of Ohio. He promises to rescind protections for Dreamers and deport them. He wants to redefine the Constitutional definition of U.S. citizenship as codified by the 14th Amendment. He plans to impose a moratorium on legal immigration. And that’s only the half of it.”

The fight comes at a time when the Obama administration is fending off pressure from both sides — the crackdown supporters such as Mr. Trump, who say the government has been too lax and that it’s invited more illegal immigration, versus the activists who say President Obama has been too harsh in detaining and deporting illegal immigrants and want to see a near-total halt.

Caught in the middle, the Obama administration is trying to ease enforcement but also warning that if it does too little, the crackdown supporters will be right, and it will entice still more crossers.

The renewed surge of illegal immigrant children and families is a potential signal that’s already going on, as this summer’s rise has defied historical trends by continuing into July rather than abating after June.

Parents traveling with children spiked 11 percent in July, to reach 4,506 — a rate of 145 a day apprehended along the border. Unaccompanied children, who drew most of the attention last year, saw a smaller increase from June to July, rising to 4,177, or a rate of about 135 a day.

That’s worrying to Border Patrol officials, who’d anticipated the numbers would drop in July, just as they did last year.

“Based on historical trends, Border Patrol would expect to be seeing a decrease in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families by this time of year. That is not the case this year, especially in the Rio Grande Valley,” Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello told Judge Dolly M. Gee, who is contemplating forcing the government to quickly release illegal immigrant families into the community.

The Obama administration argues that would undercut its enforcement and could even lead to a bigger surge, giving would-be migrants a road map for how to game the system: Bring their children on the long, dangerous journey, present themselves to the Border Patrol, be processed and quickly released, at which point they will have a chance to blend into the 11 million illegal immigrants already here.

Homeland Security has already relaxed some of its detention policies, including speeding up processing for women and children and banning the practice of holding them to send a message to future crossers.

Still, the families continue to come at an ever-increasing pace: Only 1,622 were apprehended in January, rising to 3,086 in April and 4,506 in July.

Balancing compassion with enforcement, and trying to cut incentives that may be encouraging more illegal immigrants, has proven difficult for administrations dating back decades.

But the presidential field is forcing a more pointed political conversation about the problem.

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, has sided with immigrant rights advocates in urging Judge Gee to halt family detention and release the mothers and children the Obama administration says it needs to hold.

On the GOP side, however, stiffer enforcement reigns, with Mr. Trump pushing the debate as far as it’s gone in years.

After weeks of being accused of being light on details for his presidency, he announced his immigration plan — the first major policy piece of his campaign — on Sunday, declaring that a nation without defined and defended borders cannot be considered a country.

He vowed to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, and he finally laid out options, including impounding remittances illegal immigrant Mexican workers here send back home and raising fees on visas issued to Mexican business leaders and workers.

Mr. Trump also called for imposing stiffer penalties on those who don’t jump the border but rather come legally on visas but overstay them, disappearing into the shadows with other illegal immigrants. They get less attention than the border crossers but are a significant problem, making up potentially 40 percent of the illegal immigrant population.

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