Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Immigration Article of the Day: The Costs of Trumped-Up Immigration Enforcement Measures by Kari E. Hong
The Costs of Trumped-Up Immigration Enforcement Measures by Kari E. Hong, Cardozo Law Review, Forthcoming
Boston College - Law School
Date Written: April 24, 2017
Introduced with dramatic flair, the Trump administration’s immigration policies involve heightened enforcement measures—more arrests, more ICE officers roaming our streets and airports, more detentions, more deportations, and more wall. These measures outlined in the new executive orders are expensive, ineffective, and inhumane.
Although the new enforcement measures are cruel and relentless, they did not originate with President Trump. For the past 20 years, Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) fundamentally changed immigration law by expanding who could be deported and cutting off numerous ways people used to earn status. Those close to the process freely admit that IIRIRA was enacted with a full awareness of its flawed policies, but politicians embraced it to avoid looking soft on crime and immigration. Whereas IIRIRA was the product of crass political opportunism, President Trump is using this law to its fullest.
More insidiously, Trump’s falsehoods, misstatements, and lies about immigrants’ adverse impact on society to justify both a crackdown and the billions of dollars spent on enforcement. These trumped-up reasons for trumped-up immigration enforcement come at a substantial cost. The facts are that immigrants do not commit crimes, crime rates are at a 20-year low, and the flow of incoming immigrants is at a 50-year low. And, we spend billions more on immigration enforcement than federal criminal investigations and apprehensions.
Just as being Tough on Crime was proven a waste of financial resources and human capital, so too are Tough of Immigration policies. Immigration enforcement is unnecessary, wastes financial resources, and the deportation of undocumented and documented immigrants harms our immediate and long-term economic interests.
Ending the cruel enforcement practices and repealing IIRIRA thus are important policy goals. But to rebut the underlying nativism, it is critical to recognize that immigrants are contributing to our country and to our character as Americans. From personal experience, I did not become patriotic until I saw my country through the eyes of my immigrant clients who reaffirmed the values of tolerance, hard work, parental sacrifices for children, and a dedication to give back to their new country. If we continue to pursue enforcement-only immigration policies, our losses will not be measured merely in the dollars spent but also by what collective and national values are lost.