“Since 2013 alone, the Obama administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into United States communities. These are individuals encountered or identified by ICE, but who were not detained or processed for deportation because it wouldn’t have been politically correct.”
Donald Trump nailed it in his August 31 immigration speech.
President Obama has gutted local law-enforcement’s ability to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport illegal criminals — many of whom are gang members fueling the drug trade and heroin crises in rural communities.
And local law-enforcement officers know who they are, yet can do nothing about.
Don’t believe me?
Two years ago I interviewed Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who was trying to squash the rise of gangs in his Maryland community by getting illegal criminals off his streets. And at every turn, he was getting foiled by the Obama administration and progressive groups like La Raza, who cried discrimination and unfair policing.
“Right now there’s lack of enforcement of immigration laws,” Mr. Jenkins told me at the time. “With the border crisis, every county in the nation is going to be a border county. It’s going to be chaos. Every county needs to enforce the laws of this nation.”
So that’s what he did, with the 287(g) program. It was established by the federal government to let state and local police play a role in immigration enforcement. After Mr. Jenkins or his deputies made an arrest, they were allowed to run the criminal’s name through ICE databases to determine his legal status. If the criminal was in the country illegally, he was turned over to ICE, which would start deportation proceedings.
The Obama administration has deliberately ransacked the program.
At its peak, in 2008, 287(g) arrests were about 20 percent of all ICE arrests nationwide. As of fiscal year 2013, 287(g) arrests made up only 8 percent of all ICE arrests. The number of illegal criminals deported through the program has also dropped. In 2009 it was 45,308, but in 2013 it fell to 11,767, according to internal ICE statistics.
These statistics, “illustrate very well the extent to which the Obama administration has dismantled this program,” said Jessica Vaughan director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. In 2008 “some of the largest jurisdictions for criminal alien arrests were using the program, including Harris County (Houston) and several in California. Now, most if not all of the California jurisdictions have dropped the program because of political pressure, and I think also because the Obama administration has suppressed some of the features that made it attractive, including forcing the locals to adhere to the federal priorities on who should be targeted for removal,” she said.
Mr. Jenkins experienced that pressure first-hand.
In 2008, 100 illegal criminals were caught by his cops, and only two were released by ICE. In 2014, ICE released 25 of the 98 illegal immigrants his county processed mid-way through the year.
Because the federal exemptions on who should be deported expanded. If a criminal had extended family in the area, or was sick, or was caught under the influence, they were let go. Catch and release. Many were caught again. Some had already been deported and returned.
Only those who committed violent crimes, like assault and battery, or murder, were even put through the removal process.
The Obama administration has used everything at its disposal — funding threats, discrimination lawsuits and bureaucratic changes to the program to make it operate less efficiently — to scare localities not to sign up for it, and to pressure others to drop it.
Now only 32 localities participate in the program, from a high of 75 during the end of President George W. Bush’s term.
Its revitalization would be a welcome return.
“First, if allowed to operate the way it was intended, it is a significant force multiplier for ICE that delivers a huge bang for the federal buck,” said Ms. Vaughn. “That is because the local law enforcement agencies that participate, are devoting their personnel and resources to supplement what ICE can accomplish.”
In addition, local authorities can use the program to target crime that specifically affects their neighborhoods, whether it be gangs, drugs, or human smuggling. A local bust could result in deportation — more of a threat than jail-time to the criminal.
Of course, that bothers the left.
“The ambiguity about the role of law enforcement after the adoption of 287(g) and fear of deportation have affected immigrants in a number of ways, including civic engagement, access to services and perceived vulnerability to crime,” wrote Mai Thi Nguyen and Hannah Gill at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who examined the 287(g) program in Durham City and Alamance County in North Carolina.
Call me crazy, but I believe the fear of deportation — especially among illegal criminals — is a good thing. And we shouldn’t be disregarding our nation’s laws because we want those who came here illegally to have a better lifestyle.
Mr. Trump is right — much can and needs to be done in enforcing our existing laws. Good for him for bringing it to the nation’s attention — political correctness be damned.
• Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.