While the humanitarian and public safety nightmare along our nation’s southern border obviously requires a border wall and a significant tightening of our continuously-exploited asylum laws, Congress must start focusing on immigration enforcement in the interior of the country.
The term “border security” should not be used to refer only to a small strip of land along the U.S.-Mexico border. Border security includes enforcement of immigration laws throughout the United States, meaning arrests, detention and removal of illegal aliens by officers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A robust commitment to interior enforcement buttresses the border by deterring illegal immigration — it’s an indispensable part of securing the nation.
Mass illegal immigration will continue if the Biden administration is allowed to continue gutting interior enforcement and sanctuary cities continue to offer handouts to anyone in the world who slips across the border or overstays a visa. (RELATED: FEERE: There’s A Solution To Biden’s Illegal Immigration And It’s Staring Congress In The Face)
Any serious plan from Congress would include increased resources for ICE, stronger immigration laws with serious consequences, and closer management of the Executive Branch. Though Congress gives the Executive Branch a lot of discretion on how to carry out enforcement of the nation’s laws, that discretion is now being exploited. If the Biden administration is any guide, America’s sovereignty will be largely abandoned whenever a Democrat is in the Oval Office.
That’s not sustainable and the only fix is for Congress to require, by law, a minimum number of ICE arrests and removals each year. Taxpayers are paying the paychecks of thousands of ICE officers and agents, and Congress should expect results.
In the last full year of the Trump administration in fiscal year 2020, ICE deported 185,884 aliens. In fiscal year 2021, ICE was able to deport only 59,011 aliens — and about four months of that were the final months of the Trump administration, meaning the numbers were actually much worse under Biden. This is an assault on the rule of law and an assault on our democracy.
Why bother voting for members of Congress if the laws they write can simply be ignored by the Executive Branch?
Allowing our immigration system to atrophy has a damaging effect that cannot be easily reversed by political appointees of future administrations. Congress must prevent this destruction by keeping our immigration enforcement system functioning. To achieve this, Congress needs to fund the hiring of at least 10,000 new ICE officers and task them with mandated arrests and removals.
Congress should fund tens of thousands more detention beds and expand the population of aliens subject to mandatory detention. Sanctuary policies must be outlawed.
The White House must be blocked from issuing work permits to anyone who crosses the border illegally. Severe criminal penalties for any alien violating the controversial “Alternatives to Detention”program must be put into law.
Existing legal tools must be required to be used, like fines and penalties for aliens who ignore court orders to go home; Congress created this law but until the Trump administration it hadn’t been used since the late 1990s, and now the Biden administration has blocked ICE from using it.
Another example is visa sanctions on countries that refuse to take back their criminal aliens; until the Trump administration, this important tool was used once in 2001 and once in 2016.
Congress must also put limits on abused programs like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which provides work permits to illegal aliens who happen to be in the United States when some sort of conflict or natural disaster occurs in the alien’s home country; though meant to be temporary, the Executive Branch continuously renews TPS designations and is currently allowing Honduran illegal aliens to stay here because of a hurricane in 1998, and allowing Salvadoran illegal aliens to stay here because of an earthquake in 2001, for example.
It’s time for Congress to get serious about immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States and the top goal must be reducing the current illegal immigration population through a sustained commitment to the rule of law. Any talk of legalization only encourages more illegal immigration. For more ideas on what needs to be done, see this Compendium of Legislative Options for the 117th Congress.
Jon Feere was the Chief of Staff at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump administration and is now the Director of Investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies. For more, visit www.cis.org.
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