President Donald Trump promised American citizens that he would make major changes to the immigration policies if elected the United States’ President. True to his promise, the issue of immigration has been one of his top agendas since he came to power. President Trump has signed a number of executive orders to help reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming to the United States (Chacón, 2017). He has also tried to ensure that those living in the country illegally, especially those arrested for breaking the law, are deported within the shortest time possible (Heavilin, 2017).
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Takei, Tan, and Lin (2016) say that this strategy is partly meant to fight violent extremism as a number studies suggest that some of those immigrating illegally into the country are radicalized people, some of whom are members of terror groups such as ISIS. The success or lack of it for that matter, of the immigration policies created by the new United States’ government has been a subject of heated debate over the recent past. It is important to look at some of the major immigration laws that have been introduced by the new Trump administration.
The deportation policy that was embraced by President Barack Obama is very different from that which President Donald Trump is currently using. According to Chacón (2017), President Obama issued a guideline in 2014, which required Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to focus on felons, gang members, and individuals who posed threat to national security. The agents would prioritize on these criminals when identifying those who should be deported from the United States.
When the new administration took power, the approach of classifying illegal immigrants and prioritizing their deportation was eliminated. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were given directives to deport any immigrant that they arrest at the border or within the country. The main advantage of this new policy is that it empowers the customs and immigration officials to deport anyone that they arrest for being in the country illegally. It also discourages illegal immigration into the country, especially for those who thought they could not be deported if they remained law-abiding while in the country.
A report by Chacón (2017) states that the new policy embraced by the new Trump administration has a number of weaknesses that needs to be reviewed. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department works with a limited budget. The previous regime focused on using the limited resources to eliminate individuals viewed to be of greatest threat to the country’s national security. The new strategy that does not prioritize the illegal immigrants means that cases where people who pose serious threat to the country are exempted from deportation while the law-abiding individuals are deported will be common (Takei et al., 2016). The expected increase in cases of deportation will overstretch the resources available for the department. It is possible that when forced to work under such extreme conditions with a limited budget, the efficiency and effectiveness of the department’s operations will be compromised.
Catch and Release Policy
The Obama administration introduced a system where immigration officials would arrest illegal immigrants caught crossing the border, take their details in case they are asylum seekers, and release them into the United States as they wait for their request to be granted (Chacón, 2017). However, the new Trump administration has changed the catch and release policy that was used by the precious regime (Heavilin, 2017).
Currently if one is arrested crossing the border illegally, he or she is detained or sent to Mexico- irrespective of their country of origin- as they wait to be deported to their home country (Takei et al., 2016). The new administration changed this policy because once an immigrant is released into the country, it becomes difficult to trace them in case a decision is made to deport them. The new policy strictly requires the officers managing the country’s border never to allow any illegal immigrant to walk freely within the country. Once they are arrested trying to enter the country, the officers are under instruction to take them to detention centers as they wait their deportation.
The main advantage of this new policy change is that it is now easy for the American immigration officials to execute deportation orders because those caught will be in detention camp where reaching them would be easy. The policy also discourages those who may want to cross the border into the country illegally because they know that if they are arrested, they will be detained instead of being released into the country. However, the new policy will need more funding to the prison department to enable them accommodate thousands of illegal immigrants who are always arrested on a regular basis. Expanding the facilities and increasing the human resource will mean the government’s expenditure will increase. The strategy is also seen as inappropriate when handling asylum seekers who have genuine reasons to seek refuge in the country even though they lack proper documentation (Chacón, 2017). It gives the image that the United States is insensitive towards the plight of the refugees.
No Judge Required Policy
The United States constitution lays emphasis on due process when one is expected to face any punishment, irrespective of their immigration status (Rodríguez, 2013). However, Congress passed a law two decades ago that allows the government to expedite the deportation of illegal immigrants without presenting them before the judge. The previous regimes have used this law sparingly. However, the new regime has made it clear that it will use this new law extensively to ensure that the process of deporting illegal immigrants is done as fast as possible to avoid excessive burden on the prison facilities in terms of holding them before deportation. The new administration claims that failure of the previous regimes to implement this law fully has led to delayed deportation of the illegal immigrants, some of whom pose serious national security threat because of their ties with terror groups such as ISIS.
The full implementation of this law helps in lowering the cost of deporting the immigrants from the United States. As long as the government feels that it is ready to deport them, there will be no need to take them through time-consuming court processes. The new administration has also made it clear that the new policy will deter people trying to find their way into the country illegally. However, some critics believe that this policy goes against the principles and laws that guide operations of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (Cox & Posner, 2012). The international community expects the United States to receive and protect refugees running away from their countries because of political persecution or instability. It is seen as a selfish move that pays no attention to the reason why one is forced to move to a foreign country. As a country that cherishes the rule of law, this policy has been criticized because it denies the immigrants the justice they deserve.
Unaccompanied Alien Children Who Arrive at the Border
The United States has always avoided punishing children for mistakes committed by their parents. That is why for a long time, children found abandoned at the borders of the country without any adult company- the unaccompanied alien children- are often offered government protection (Heavilin, 2017). This is specifically so because some of them are often forced to flee their politically unstable countries during war without the company of their parents. The problem was very common in Central American countries. Before a decision to deport such children is made, they would be taken before an immigration judge who would make a decision on what should be done based on the fact presented in the court. However, a new policy has been introduced that emphasizes on stiff penalties for those who are found guilty of smuggling children into the country.
Proponents of the new policy say that it will significantly reduce cases where parents help their children to cross the border into the United States (Takei et al., 2016). The nature of punishment will discourage the practice. However, critics say that this new policy will only make it difficult to trace the parents of such children for fear of prosecution. Some of these children cannot remember their country of origin (Chacón, 2017). Unless their parents can be traced, it becomes almost impossible to know where they should be sent to in case it is necessary to deport them. It forces the government to take care of these children because they cannot be released from government’s custody without knowing the people who will take care of them. The government is expected to spend more if the policy is implemented.
Statistics and Sanctuaries
The Trump administration introduced a policy that allows victims of crime committed by the illegal immigrants to know the immigration status of their aggressors. The new law goes against the concept of sanctuary cities where the police would work closely with the illegal immigrants to identify radicalized elements and criminals among themselves. The new policy brings to an end such collaborations and favors extended to the immigrants who agree to cooperate with the police. It is seen as a move meant to eliminate a concept seen to legalize illegal immigration into the country (Glyn, 2015). Under the new administration, any illegal immigrant is subject to deportation irrespective of their ability to provide law enforcement agencies with information that can lead to arrest of criminals. States and counties that fail to implement the new policies may be denied federal government support as a way of pressurizing them to abolish the old tradition.
The main benefit of this new policy is that illegal immigrants will know that they cannot get any special treatment in the country. They will know that they have a responsibility to follow the right channel and systems when planning to immigrate into the United States (Takei et al., 2016). The critics of this new policy argue that it will not stop people determined to come to the country illegally from doing so. Instead, it will only strain the relationship between the law enforcement agencies and the immigrant population (Heavilin, 2017). The intelligence that the officers would get may not be available anymore because of such strained relationships. It means that the officers will find it more difficult fighting crime than was the case in the past (Chacón, 2017). Their ability to act before a crime is committed will be significantly reduced.
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The Dreamers’ Policy is one of the very few policies of the Obama era that the current President Trump has publicly supported. The president has stated that he is not eager to deport dreamers. According to Martin and Davis (2017), dreamers are people who immigrated into the country illegally when they were children. Just like in the previous administration, the current administration has maintained that such people should be granted citizenship or at least legal status to be in the country. This group of immigrants faces no deportation threat, unlike the groups discussed above. This policy benefits individuals who came to the country illegally with their parents several years ago and have spent most of their lives in the country (Chacón, 2017). When their parents, who immigrated into the country illegally, are being deported, they have the chance to decide whether they want to remain in the country or go back to their country of birth alongside their parents (Heavilin, 2017).
The main advantage of this policy is that it is in line with the American spirit where children are not subjected to punishment for crimes committed by their parents. Those who immigrated to the country as young children and went through the American education system are viewed as being fit enough to become American citizens. That is why the current regime has opted not to deport them from the country unless they are involved in serious criminal offences. However, the main weakness of this policy is that it may encourage foreigners to dump their children within the country hoping that the government will take care of them. This is specifically the case in the Southern border of the country where majority of the Central Americans are keen on having their children across to the United States’ border (Chacón, 2017).
Role of Local Police
The Immigration and Nationality Act 287(g) created a program where the Department of Homeland Security trains the state and local law enforcement officers to work as federal immigrant officers, with powers to identify, jail, and hand over undocumented immigrants in their areas of jurisdiction to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the purposes of deportation (McKee, Greer, & Stuckler, 2017). The law was enacted to help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to identify illegal immigrants living within the country and deport them as soon as authorization to do so is granted by the courts. It came to force in 2006. The new law has been instrumental in the deportation of 175,000 immigrants from the United States from 2006 to 2013. This policy has been particularly effective when it comes to arresting illegal immigrants who are on transit into the country.
According to Martin and Davis (2017), one of the greatest advantages of this policy is that it increases the human power of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It makes it easy for them to identify illegal immigrants within the country, unlike before when the agency had to use its own officers to identify these people. The move has also helped these government departments to share crucial information that can help in dealing with security threats in a timely manner. However, the policy has been viewed as being discriminative, especially against the Latino immigrants. McKee et al. (2017) say that the state and local law enforcement officers have been accused of being biased against Mexicans, whether or not they are legally within the country. The officers often demand documentations from Latinos, especially the highway patrol officers. Some human rights activists now argue that the officers treat the Latinos differently from the way they do to the rest of the population is treated.
The issue of illegal immigration is one of the major concerns that various administrations in the United States have had to deal with for the last 75 years. The country remains one of the most preferred destinations in the world among people who consider moving away from the country of their birth (Martin & Davis, 2017). Many people have come to the country through legal means and they have played critical roles in the country’s socio-economic and political development.
However, others have immigrated into the country illegally, making them undocumented American residents (Martin & Davis, 2017). The current administration came to power with the promise of addressing this sensitive issue in the best way possible, especially with the rising cases of global terrorism by radicalized extremists. The policies embraced by the new regime are considered stricter than those used under the Obama regime. However, some scholars, human rights activists, and security experts argue that some of these new policies may affect the close relationship that the police had with the locals in the fight against crime. It means that it is possible that the crime rates will increase without necessarily reducing the rates at which people immigrate into the country illegally.
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