If the DHS will not close the border to lawfare, why won’t it at least deport those Central American families who have gone through the cumbersome legal process and have been ordered to be deported?
Appearing on Fox & Friends last Friday, former acting ICE Director Tom Homan said he believes the most effective deterrent now to the flow of migrants at the border is to begin deporting all those with final deportation orders.
“We could do more,” said Homan, who headed deportation operations during the 2014 wave of Central American immigrants. “I’ve said many times, there are over 100,000 family units with final orders, been ordered removed by an immigration judge. We need to seek them out and return them to their homeland. We need to execute the final orders issued by the judges, or there’s no integrity to the entire system. That’s not being done; we need to do it. I did it four years ago and it worked. I can’t understand why that’s not happening.”
Indeed, I reported in March that over one million illegal aliens remain in this country despite final deportation orders. According to data obtained by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) via a FOIA request, as of June 2018, there were 450,976 individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador with final deportation orders and another 715,930 with pending final orders. Those with pending final orders are usually individuals who have already been ordered deported by immigration judges but are appealing their cases to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the appellate body of the DOJ’s administrative immigration courts.
These numbers are a year old and were collected before much of the unprecedented surge from Central America. It’s likely that by now the numbers of those with final deportation orders are even higher. Homan noted that specifically targeting Central American families with final deportation orders will serve as a strong deterrent to those in the pipeline now trying to make the trip or thinking of coming here illegally.
When the hosts of Fox & Friends tried to press Homan on the efficacy of the Trump threat to levy tariffs on Mexico, Homan steered the discussion back to deportations. “I’ll say it once again, the secretary of Homeland Security needs to approve this operation. ICE has been ready to do this operation for months – to go seek out those that have final orders. If we don’t do that, there’s no integrity in the system. It works.”
Thus, the former acting ICE director revealed that ICE has a ready-made plan to deport these families with final orders, but for some reason there remains reluctance at the leadership level of DHS to executive it.
While it certainly makes sense to prioritize the resources of ICE’s relatively small staff for deporting the most dangerous criminal aliens, regardless of country of origin, it is most prudent today to specifically target recent arrivals from Central America as a means of solving the border crisis. Once they are released, they know they will not be deported. This is why 87 percent of recent Central American migrants failed to show up for their court hearings.
But what if ICE started aggressively apprehending and deporting those with final deportation orders and Guatemalans began seeing planeloads of those ahead of them in the pipeline of the smuggling routes returning home? Then, even if we fail to end catch-and-release at the front end, at least they know the law will catch up with them eventually, thereby dissuading them from embarking on the dangerous journey in the first place.
The new acting director of ICE, Mark Morgan, appears to be a big fan of this targeted action against those with final orders. During testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee in April, Morgan referred to such a plan as “an essential element to reduce the continuing ‘pull’ factor.”
“We need to support and increase ICE enforcement, interior enforcement,” said Morgan, referring to the over one million illegal aliens with final deportation orders who still remain here illegally. “If we start an enforcement operation to remove those individuals, you will also make a huge dent on the incentive.”
Homan is mystified as to why DHS leadership has not yet executed the plan. As weak as Obama was on immigration enforcement, after several months of a much smaller Central American wave in 2014, he approved a plan to begin deporting those who had already gone through the process. The endless planeloads of failed infiltrators arriving back home, in conjunction with a robust media campaign in Central America warning of those deportations, reduced most of the Central American migration in 2015, until it heated up again during Trump’s presidency.
In July 2014, President Obama didn’t just focus on “a humanitarian crisis” and the need for more illegal alien care in his emergency supplemental funding request for the border; he also asked for $879 million “for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children.” On July 25, Obama warned Central American leaders that “children who do not have proper claims and families with children who do not have proper claims, at some point will be subject to repatriation to their home countries.” And this is when they were traveling alone, without the obvious fraud of one child being used per adult as a ticket to catch-and-release.
Soon we will find out whether the DHS, now headed by acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, is willing to be at least as strong under the Trump administration as it was under the Obama administration.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.