Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to rid the country of "dangerous" undocumented immigrants. Now, his rhetoric is becoming a reality, with new rules that promise to exempt no one from the threat of deportation. However, immigration experts believe the policies are so broad that they are both unfeasible and likely to backfire. Bob talks with Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at New York University School of Law, about how the president's immigration directives are more about appearing tough than actually improving public safety.
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones. We have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out.
BOB GARFIELD: Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric about ridding the United States of dangerous outsiders is now becoming a reality.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Immigration raids, some communities on edge after a string of deportation raids in at least six states.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Eight-year-old Kelly was born in the United States but her parents are undocumented. And at the mention of her father, currently in ICE detention, she can’t stop crying [CRYING SOUNDS] - her mother, among those living in fear that their families may soon be torn apart.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: In Texas, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, entered the El Paso County Courthouse last week in order to arrest an undocumented woman who'd gone to court seeking a protective order against her alleged domestic abuser.
BOB GARFIELD: Several studies show that immigrants actually commit fewer violent crimes than the population at large but, as we are reminded every day, facts are of no concern to an administration swept into office on the politics of xenophobia and lies. So now, with two new executive orders in hand and guidelines for their implementation released this week, the Department of Homeland Security is dismantling the protocols that obliged immigration police to prioritize the most flagrant or dangerous cases involving the undocumented.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: Immigration officers are now going to have much broader discretion to decide who to round up, in the first place. So, practically speaking here, if an agent goes on a raid to find a criminal undocumented immigrant, anyone else who happens to be with that person at the same time who’s also here unlawfully may now be deported.
BOB GARFIELD: This includes those who have been convicted of any criminal offense, charged with any criminal offense, committed acts that constitute, perhaps, a chargeable criminal offense or, quote, “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security,” so basically – everyone.
Immigration Lawyer Muzaffar Chishti says a zero-tolerance image is what the Trump administration seeks to portray but he also believes it's in large part just smoke and handcuffs.
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: You know, I think the effort here is to create a feeling that this is a different day in the world of immigration enforcement and there is a new sheriff in town. To round up all 11.2 million people in the country is physically, constitutionally, legally and operationally impossible, so, therefore, there is much more a narrative here of enforcement than there will be a real sustainable level of immigration enforcement. The Obama administration gets the credit for having removed in any one year the largest number of people, the peak of removals in 2011, about 450,000 people. Any expert on immigration enforcement believes that to remove a much larger group of people is very difficult for a couple of reasons. A) It requires many more resources, and Congress hasn't given those resources to the executives yet. Secondly, there’s due process of law, which slows any person’s removal. Third, it requires a significant amount of international cooperation. I mean, hidden in these executive orders is the belief that Mexico is just voluntarily going to take all Mexicans that we want to remove or all Central Americans and other South Americans that cross through the Mexican territory to the United States back to their country. I mean, it’s almost the same narrative as saying Mexico will pay for the wall. You make statements without ever having verified from the government that is implicated in that.
BOB GARFIELD: The Trump administration has talked about hiring 5,000 new Border agents and 10,000 ICE officers to do the job. Is that a plausible notion?
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: The fact is that we have been having difficulty recruiting Border officers for which slots have already been allotted, for about 60% of them cannot pass a polygraph test. To hire a federal enforcement official is always a very tedious task. It takes typically about 18 months. So just to say that we’re going to hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents, 10,000 ICE agents, as if it’s going to happen tomorrow, is one more sort of indication as to why the rhetoric is more dominant here than facts.
BOB GARFIELD: So you believe that it's impractical and part of a kind of PR show but, in the meantime, a lot of people are going to be caught up in the show.
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: Let’s not sort of underemphasize the alarming nature of this development. The principal effect is that it instills fear and unpredictability in a large section of the unauthorized population, which, until recently, had begun to have a certain semblance of a normal life, that if you’re just an ordinary status violator, not committed a crime, you can get up in the morning and go to work and hope that you can come back and see your children at night again. That certainty now has been removed. People are anxious and will be anxious at all times under this order because it makes everyone a priority.
BOB GARFIELD: I mentioned that data about undocumented aliens and crime does not support the notion that it is an especially criminal cohort, but on the campaign trail Trump cherry picked anecdotes, horrifying ones, about victims of crimes committed by undocumented residents.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: In the audience tonight, we have four mothers, unbelievable people that I've gotten to know over a period of years, whose children have been killed, brutally killed by people that came into the country illegally.
RUTH JONNSTON MARTIN: My name is Ruth Johnston Martin. My husband was shot by an illegal alien. He fought the good fight, but he took his last breath in 2002….
BOB GARFIELD: As I understand the new rules, there's actually a provision to highlight, to publicize crimes committed by the undocumented? Tell me about VOICE.
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: So VOICE is a sub-department created in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. And this is going to provide support to victims of crimes but also, most importantly, it’s going to provide the names of all people who have committed these crimes, the way they committed them, what their status was, what their history was. And this is a reversal of a policy the federal government has had over time where you would not reveal the information that government had on individual cases. At the same time, they want to highlight those jurisdictions of the country, states and localities which do not honor detainers from the federal government and if those jurisdictions release people who they then proceed to commit a crime, they want to highlight every crime of the person, clearly to shame the cities. I have actually never seen a situation where a president of the United States uses government information to shame another law enforcement agency. I think that is unprecedented.
And now let me also just highlight one more thing. The president sustained his campaign by parading the victims of the crimes of unauthorized and highlighting the unsympathetic unauthorized people, and it worked very well for him. I think what we’ll begin to see is sympathetic people, just mothers and grandmothers and cooks and soccer coaches being handcuffed. And the narrative will shift from the unsympathetic to the sympathetic, and that may provide a different kind of a public relations challenge that the president may not be prepared for.
BOB GARFIELD: On the other hand, isn't it exactly what the president wants to project, law and order, tough on crime, cracking down on illegal immigration?
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: I think that's absolutely true. I think what this level and nature of enforcement will prove is that not all unauthorized people are equal. There are sympathetic people among the unauthorized, as there are sympathetic people among all populations. No one is expecting to give a standing ovation to an unauthorized person. That's not what policy tries to elicit. All that decent policy tries to say is that, look, there are nuances among populations and in a world of limited resources, even the best resource enforcement agency has to draw up priorities. No agency has enough resources to go after a child rapist and a jaywalker at the same time. And there’s a security component to this, which will also, I think, ultimately cost the president. If resources are spent going after jaywalkers, that's less resources to go after child molesters and that at some point we’ll see that has a significant public security component which may begin to affect the narrative of the president.
BOB GARFIELD: Muzaffar, thank you very much.
MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: Muzaffar Chishti is a lawyer and director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at the New York University School of Law.