The Truth about the Current State of Immigration Enforcement

By Shawn Jain, ACLU at 11:08am 12/12/12

On Monday, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC featured an interview with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and the discussion turned to immigration.

Matthews asked Crist about his views on immigration enforcement and said that part of being a Democrat (Crist’s new political party) is being weak on enforcement.

You can watch the discussion here.

For anyone following our current Democratic president’s record on immigration enforcement, Matthews’ sentiment is a shock. As we highlighted in a letter we sent President Obama before Thanksgiving, the current administration has established an undeniably harsh record on immigration and border enforcement, including:

  • Record-breaking deportations of more than 1.5 million individuals in his first term (more than in any other single presidential term), almost half of whom had no criminal records, leaving hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizen children without parents and in foster care
  • Unprecedented detention levels of immigrants (429,000 in the last fiscal year), using a record number of detention beds (34,000) – without individualized assessment of who requires jail-like detention – at a wasteful cost of $2 billion annually
  • Nationwide deployment of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program, despite opposition of many state and local leaders based on damage to community policing and public safety, rising fear among victims and witnesses of crime, and racial profiling.
  • Continuation of the controversial DHS 287(g) program that deputizes state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws when immigration enforcement is a federal matter, as the litigation against Arizona’s racial profiling law SB 1070 reinforced.
  • Historically high enforcement resources along the Southwest border, leading to manifold abuses by Customs and Border Protection including a series of fatal shootings
  • Record spending on border and interior enforcement such that Rep. Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, identified a “mini industrial complex” of bloated border spending

The ACLU has strongly criticized the administration’s record in this area, including our full-page New York Times ad published following the president’s re-election. As a result of the administration’s harsh enforcement policies, immigrant communities nationwide have suffered permanent deportation and family separation.

This has occurred despite these policies being unnecessary – unauthorized immigration rates and border apprehensions have plummeted to the lowest level in 40 years, and new census data released last week confirm a sustained drop in unauthorized immigration. Furthermore, as we highlighted in an earlier post, these enforcement policies are fiscally irresponsible.

It’s important that we all understand the truth about the administration’s record on immigration enforcement and call on it to end its abusive, discriminatory, and wasteful programs.