Is President Donald Trump breaking brand new ground with his deportation raids? A little bit yes, and whole lotta bit no.
In today's L.A. Times, I point out some of the conspiracy theories and newly rediscovered enforcement practices that have come with the Trump presidency, and suggest that you cannot hope to rouse a meaningful defense against today's crackdown without also grappling with yesterday's expulsions. Excerpt:
The recent raids, however, were planned before Trump had lifted a finger on immigration policy, ICE Field Office Director for Los Angeles David Marin told reporters. And of the 161 people arrested in the California sweeps, "all but five would've been cases we would've prioritized for enforcement previously."
Much of what Trump has done is set the immigration enforcement clock all the way back to 2013. The Secure Communities federal/local data-sharing program that Trump is exhuming was only shuttered by Obama at the end of 2014. The resumed collection of non-targeted "collateral" aliens during immigration raids was the norm well past the 2012 Democratic National Convention paean to "DREAMers."
Even Trump's announced intentions to prioritize the expulsion of "bad hombres" has echoes of Obama in both policy and rhetoric. As recently as 2015, the 44th president described his approach as "making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gangbangers or criminals, that we're deporting them as quickly as possible, that we're focusing our resources there." Trump is hardly the first resident of 1600 Pennsylvania to be tagged as the "deporter in chief." […]
The fact is, starting with the 2006 collapse of comprehensive immigration reform, successive pro-reform administrations deliberately used stepped-up enforcement as a political tool—George W. Bush to call the bluff on restrictionists who derailed a treasured second-term goal, Obama to build up "credibility" for legislative negotiations that never took off.
When we give that much power and discretion to the president, and subject millions of lives to the passions of national politics, whimsical and arbitrary punishment will be the norm, not the exception.