What you heard:
ICE has been carrying out raids around the country as the Trump administration expands deportation efforts.
What it is:
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses on two things: Homeland Security (identifying things that make us less safe) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (arresting and deporting the people who make us less safe). ICE is actually the US’s 2nd-largest law enforcement agency (after the FBI), and in the past has used its considerable powers to deport unauthorized immigrants who commit crimes – hence the “people who make us less safe” part of the job. Typically, “people who come to the US to work terrible, under-the-table cash-only jobs to feed their families” are not a major priority for ICE agents, nor a target for deportation.
That, however, seems to be changing as the administration ramps up raids in its ever-expanding deportation efforts. On Tuesday, Trump signed executive orders that: massively broaden ICE’s detention guidelines and allow agents to detain any person who they think poses a “risk to public safety”; instruct ICE to partner with local enforcement agencies on deportation efforts; and make anyone in the country for up to two years targets for “expedited removal”.
What it means:
As with many new Trump administration directives, this marks a sea change in generally held government policy. “I thought this person was posing a risk to public safety” is an incredibly easy justification for detaining someone because of their skin color – and it’s hard to argue against that when you’re already discriminated against and maybe don’t speak English. That means any unauthorized immigrant – not just someone accused/guilty of a crime – can be targeted for deportation. In Virginia, a man was just arrested as he left a church shelter where he’d stayed for warmth.
ICE/local enforcement partnerships have been tried before and quickly scrapped because they are ineffective and impose unnecessary burdens on local enforcement. Turning local police people into immigration officials makes their jobs harder, and makes the communities they are supposed to protect scared to come forward. Many jurisdictions have fought this type of directive in the past, arguing the old classic “not my job“.
The two-year rule for unauthorized immigrants makes more sense when you look at it with a (hypothetical) case study. Before, the only people eligible for “expedited removal” (when you don’t have the right to appear in front of a judge before being deported) were individuals found near the border who’d been in the country less than 2 weeks. Now, say you’re a woman who left Mexico because your brother was murdered, you were raped, and you weren’t trying to let that happen again. Eighteen months ago, you and your boyfriend (also a very upstanding member of society) made the journey to Seattle (you have family there), you settled and even had a baby. Tomorrow, an ICE agent could come knock on your door and put you on a plane back to Mexico without you ever having a chance to explain why you left in the first place – and without the chance to say goodbye to your child. Two-year expedited removal is incredibly disruptive to lives and families: it’s just inhumane.
What could happen:
It’s easy to explain why harsh deportation policies are bad for unauthorized immigrants. It’s harder, however, to explain why they’re bad for middle-class white people who don’t know anyone that speaks Spanish. I’ll cover a few of those reasons here.
- Mass deportation is bad for the economy. It’s estimated that unauthorized immigrants are responsible for up to $623 billion of US economic output – deporting all of them would shrink the national economy by an estimated 2% in just one year.
Your racist uncle’s argument: “Those people are taking away our jobs, and they’ll be filled by real US citizens who are out of work.”
Well, not really. In 2011, Alabama passed a “show me your papers” law, which basically allowed any law enforcement officer to demand to see proof of citizenship or work authorization from anyone they felt looked not authorized (read: anyone of color). Unauthorized workers stayed away, but good hardworking white people took those jobs, right? Wrong. Factories shut down and crops rotted in fields – the annual economic damage was estimated at $11 billion.
- Mass deportation is really expensive, and you, the taxpayer, fund it. There are an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US, and the vast majority of them live their lives and go to work and never affect you, Mr. Accountant in Topeka, in any way. But I’d bet your taxes would definitely go up with the estimated $400-$600 billion it would cost to apprehend, detain, process and transport every one of those 11 million people back to their homelands.
Your 22-year-old white bro cousin’s argument: “That’s not that much money, I bet we spend that much on stupid shit like NASA already.”
Nah brah. $600 billion is more than half the annual federal budget. MORE THAN HALF. We only spend $30 billion on stupid shit like Science (and only $18b on NASA). The entire military budget is less than $600 billion. If you want to keep the cool stuff you already have, like frat parties at your publicly funded university and indiscriminate killing of brown people in the Middle East, PLUS deport every unauthorized immigrant in this country, you’re going to be paying 1.5x the taxes. That’s really going to eat into your beer and weed money.
- It’s just wrong to break up families and deport people who weren’t lucky enough to be born this side of the border. 99.99999% of unauthorized people are in the US for love, work, money, and to escape violence elsewhere. If I have to explain to you why wanting mass deportation makes you a bad person, you’re certainly not a good one.