New immigration enforcement guidelines handed down by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday prompted full-scale hyperbole on cable TV shows, with visions of millions of deportations and unmade hotel beds.
There was nothing really new in the documents written at the direction of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. They merely provide details to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 25.
“You’re not going to get your bed made at your hotel.”
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And given that immigration was, perhaps, Trump’s most prominent issue during his campaign, it should not have come as a surprise. But some cable commentators behaved as if Kelly’s memos came out of the blue.
“You’re not going to get your bed made at your hotel,” liberal commentator Bob Beckel said on an episode of “The Five” on Fox News.
“Oh, really? How rude and racist is that statement?” said co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle.
Co-host Eric Bolling pointed out — accurately — that the memos simply call for enforcing current laws.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with enforcing the existing laws that are on the books in this country,” she said. “This is about the rule of law and respecting it.”
As a purely factual matter, immigrants do make up a large share of maids in the United States — but nowhere close to all. The foreign-born share of maids and housekeepers in the United States, according to census data cited in a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, is 49.3 percent. And that is all foreign-born workers, not just the smaller portion who came illegally.
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But Fox hardly had a monopoly on exaggerations Tuesday. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin declared that priorities outline by the Department of Homeland Security threaten every illegal immigrant in the country.
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“All 11 million are at risk,” he aid. “Donald Trump is keeping a campaign promise here. He wanted to step up immigration enforcement. That means step up deportation.”
Under former President Barack Obama, he said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had discretion to target only dangerous criminals for deportations.
“They are stripping away that discretion, and they are opening up the group of people who are at risk of deportations, and that’s gonna lead to more deportations,” he said. “That’s the whole point of what the Trump administration did today.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday flatly rejected the suggestion that the new immigration enforcement guidelines amount to a mass deportation program. And much as the most ardent immigration hard-liners might welcome rapid deportation of illegal immigrants, the guidelines single out the highest priorities. Those include:
- Illegal immigrants who have been convicted of criminal offenses.
- Illegal immigrants with criminal charges, even if those changes have not been resolved.
- Illegal immigrants who have committed acts that would be a crime, even if no formal charges have been filed.
- Illegal immigrants who have engaged in fraud of a government official or agency.
- Illegal immigrants who have abused any program related to public benefits.
- Illegal immigrants who have a final order for deportation.
- Illegal immigrants who pose a public safety or national security risk, in the judgment of immigration officials.
Rebecca Berg, a political reporter at RealClearPolitics, glossed over those priorities during a panel discussion on CNN.
“This order is not going to prioritize criminals over regular undocumented immigrants if he’s leaving it up to legal law enforcement, for instance,” she said.
She said that “in a place like Texas, they can go in whether someone has committed crimes during their time in the United States or not since they illegally immigrated. They can kick them either way.”
Berg, perhaps, was referring to policy resurrecting a George W. Bush program allowing local law enforcement officers to help ICE enforce immigration law. But local police do not have the power to deport anyone. That still would be left to federal immigration authorities.
Most experts agree that casts a much wider net than the restrictive guidelines of the Obama years. And they say Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers now are free to arrest anyone they encounter who is deportable, even if he or she does not fall into one of the priority categories.
But experts contend that limited resources will make mass deportations impossible and that most of those arrested likely will fall into one of those categories. What’s more, Trump explicitly has declined to repeal Obama’s executive order created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants work permits to illegal immigrants brought to America as children.