Days of Deportation: the Impact of Bad Immigration Policy

In Slate’s latest cover story, titled “Days of Deportation,” their reporters gathered the stories and personal accounts of 60 different people who experienced arrests, removals, or detention due to recent policy changed enacted by ICE under the Trump Administration’s direction. All of these stories were gathered from a small window of time: February 2017 to April 2017, an 8-week period that offers a snapshot of how Trump’s immigration policies are affecting everyday people.

You can read the stories for yourself here.

Attorneys from the American Immigration Lawyers Association were happy to assist the reporters in gathering these stories and put a spotlight on the immigrants who are suffering the most under burdensome and inefficient White House policies. However, today’s blog is not about the individual stories, but the numbers that represent them.

Don’t Be Fooled—Things Are Fundamentally Different Now

The immigration sea change these stories are signalling have massive and far-reaching impact on American life.

The White House’s immigration goals remain fixated on mass deportations, reversing Obama-era policies that focused on criminal immigrants or individuals who posed a threat to public safety. Regarding the new priorities for immigrant removal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “Everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported, so people come here and they stay here a few years and somehow they think they are not subject to deportation—well, they are.”

However, rather than being an effort focused on enforcing the law to improve safety, this really harms law-abiding immigrants who have built lives, families, and communities in the States. These are men and women who do not pose a threat to anyone’s safety—and in fact contribute to their communities.

Since enacting Trump era policies, the arrests of non-criminal immigrants has more than doubled, and about half of these arrests are for people who have no prior convictions or have committed a traffic violation. Overall, there are 40% more immigration arrests occurring now than during the previous administration.

Bad for Law Enforcement & Bad for America

There’s a reason that previous administrations avoided these types of arrests: they are a waste of limited law enforcement resources, and the rules of strategic and intelligent policy demanded a more focused approach. This policy isn’t creating a safer America—it’s fracturing families and communities that are founded on long-term residents. As New Jersey immigration attorneys, we’ve seen firsthand the destructive effect of needlessly arresting innocent men and women.

For voters who want a country that employs stricter law enforcement, policy like this is weakening the ability of ICE and other organizations to pursue individuals who are actually breaking the law or present a threat to our communities. By spreading out resources to corral mothers, fathers, providers, and other non-criminal immigrants, we’re more likely to let legitimately dangerous individuals slip through the cracks.

The days of deportation are here, and we can already see the policy’s effects—but the “safer” America that the White House has promised unlikely to be the result. Attorney Lloyd Bennett puts it this way:

“The solution is comprehensive immigration reform where we allow those who have been in the US for a long period of time to get on a path towards legalization. This would bring an estimated 11.5 million people out of the shadows, produce billions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow hard working families to pursue the American dream,” he said. “We need a 21st century approach to immigration reform. The system is broken. We need to get those with no criminal record into the system. It’s in our national interest to do so.”

“Building walls is not the answer.”