We don’t need more “border funding” to fix a policy problem at our border, one which could be solved with the military and proper use of current law. However, we do need more funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to compensate for years of not enforcing existing law, which has created a backlog of illegal aliens, often dangerous ones, in our country with no ability to deport them. Yet, that is the one funding request Republicans refuse to push.
The border problem itself is very simple. The two problems are district court lawfare inviting millions of people to our border and the refusal of our government to treat the cartels as a national defense issue and deploy the military to hold the line at the border the way we secure parameters of other countries’ borders. None of these require funding, but policy changes. We already spend $716 billion on the military every year, much of it to secure other countries. There’s no reason we can’t secure our own border with that type of exorbitant budget.
The issue, then, is lack of interior enforcement. Thanks to endless lawfare and lack of resources, illegal aliens, including other countries’ most violent criminals and drug traffickers, remain here indefinitely. Congress addressed the lawfare in 1996 by unanimously passing a bill that ensured that any illegal immigrant caught within two years of coming here is deported immediately under “expedited removal” without any review by an immigration judge, much less a federal judge. Yet, because every administration has refused to implement that law, illegal aliens have been allowed to stay indefinitely and go through the endless lawfare system, creating a resource problem that our laws were designed to prevent.
Still, there are over 1 million illegal aliens who have already received final deportation orders, with another 1.5 million having already received deportation orders but are in the process of seeking an appeal the 1996 law was designed to foreclose.
If we can’t remove even those at this stage, then our laws are a joke. Unfortunately, there are only roughly 6,000 ICE agents available to do the removals and they are averaging just 7,000 interior deportations a month so far this year. And thanks to the border surge itself, ICE resources are being diverted to serve as babysitters at the border along with Border Patrol. Bryan Wilcox, acting director of ICE’s Seattle field office, said on my show Thursday that “better than 10% of my officers are currently on detail either to the border or to other parts of the country in support of the border.” He noted that “if we really want to make a dent on this problem, we need significantly more resources.”
Even if we focused solely on the bad guys, we lack the resources to make a dent. Think about it: as early as 2013, DHS estimated, based on ICE programs in local jails, that there were 1.9 million criminal aliens in this country and that 900,000 aliens were arrested every year. Chillingly, the report noted that “550,000 criminal aliens convicted of crimes exit law enforcement custody every year” and that “this population of criminal aliens poses a major threat to public safety.”
That was before the entire wave of Central Americans and the massive influx of gangs it has brought in. This is a prima facie public safety threat, yet it is so redressable because, unlike with American criminals, they can all be removed from society so that we don’t have to deal with their almost certain recidivism. But thanks to years of disregarding the law, there are too many of them in the country for the resources we have to deport them.
Yet, deportations are the only thing Congress will not fund amidst the bipartisan effort to fund legal aid and more amnesty programs for illegals. They will not provide the funding to enforce the laws passed by people like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Biden in 1996.
It’s truly hard to understate the importance of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Most other law enforcement only have authority to apprehend. The rest is out of their hands. The prosecutor must then land a conviction, and in our weak-on-crime system, most violent criminals are back on the streets within short order. With ICE, you get the best bang for your buck because these foreign criminals are removed from the country given that they have no affirmative right to be here.
Unfortunately, more than half of ICE’s human resources are drawn off for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which often does good work, but often gets distracted. When the investigators from the old U.S. Customs Service merged with INS deportation officers under the newly created Department of Homeland Security, many of its leaders made it clear they wanted nothing to do with immigration work. Thus, they were given a fiefdom to “conduct investigation.” Often, they have nothing to do with the homeland or immigration or overlap with DEA and FBI. Recently, they celebrated an investigation combating trademark theft in NBA memorabilia.
With the entire agency smaller than the NYPD to begin with, why is more than half diverted away from what is the ultimate resource problem and the ultimate success for public safety? ERO officers are often regarded as low-level work by the HSI leaders who seem to influence much of ICE’s broad vision. That’s why we are left with about as many removal officers as the size of Houston’s police department and less than half the size of Chicago’s police department.
If we would only have more ERO agents and give them the necessary resources to enforce CURRENT law, so much of the human and drug trafficking would not exist and there would be no need for much of the HSI investigations. This is not to say there aren’t some really dedicated and talented HSI agents who are working some worthy investigations. It’s just that the balance of resources, focus, and esteem must be recalibrated more in favor of ERO than it is today because they have the tools to protect Americans from so much harm by simply removing the threat without any lawfare. The rest of HSI should be focused more on multiplying deportations of gangs and criminal networks.
Rather than the politicians and the media scoffing at President Trump’s attempt to enforce our laws by noting how we lack the resources to fully implement it, they should be outraged that those resources have never been allocated.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.