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The Current Battle Over Immigration

             6/22/2018

President Trump

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The battle over illegal immigration has heated up in recent days due to the controversy arising from the policy of separating undocumented immigrant parents and children upon detention. Democrats and their allies in the media have, apparently successfully, used the uproar over this issue to force the President’s hand regarding his enforcement of border policy. Now that President Trump has signed an executive order addressing the child separation policy, the left has immediately begun criticizing this move while demanding the release of undocumented families held in detention.

While the child separation policy has been portrayed in the media as a cruel and callous measure of deterrence instituted by the Trump administration, it actually stems from the 1997 Flores Agreement. The Flores Agreement originally applied to unaccompanied minors who were apprehended entering the country illegally, stating that they must be released as soon as possible to parents, other family members, or foster care programs. Alternatively, if such release is not possible, they are to be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate. In 2015 the Ninth Court of Appeals ruled that the Flores Agreement also applied to minors accompanied by their families and mandated the release of 1700 undocumented families. In 2016 the court determined that the Flores Agreement did not grant parents an affirmative right of release, resulting in the current interpretation of the agreement.

The Trump administration’s increasingly strict enforcement of immigration law has resulted in a much larger number of family separations occurring than during the Obama years. Unfortunately, the Trump administration performed an abysmal job with public relations regarding the child separation policy, by failing to clarify the policy’s origins early on and by citing the “deterrent” effect of its implementation. A poor presentation of the policy only served to reinforce the media narrative, increasing public outcry.

One would think that given all the controversy surrounding child separation, congressional Democrats would wish to use their legislative authority to end this policy, however, that was never the case. Senator Chuck Schumer indicated his party’s desire to avoid an actual resolution to this issue in favor of its use as a political club with his statement: “There are so many obstacles to legislation and when the president can do it with his own pen . . . Legislation is not the way to go here when it’s so easy for the president to sign it.” As this clearly shows, the Democrats fully intended to abdicate their legislative responsibility to make the law, to back the President into a political corner.

Now that the president has issued an executive order addressing the child separation policy, Democrats have immediately begun lambasting him for instituting “family detention.” Bernie Sanders tweeting, “Trump’s executive order merely replaces one inhumane act with another. In response to the overwhelming public outrage at his policy of tearing children away from their parents at the border, this administration thinks the appropriate response is to indefinitely detain families.” This despite the fact that it is still unclear what the effect of the executive order will be, as it merely reaffirms the administration’s commitment to upholding the law and directs the DOJ to petition the court to reconsider the Flores Agreement.

Biased reporting on this issue by the mainstream media has led to a heightening of rhetoric and tensions on both sides. Most troubling has been the inexcusable vitriol and threats directed at members of ICE. A tweet from Occupy Wall Street NYC entitled “What to do if you Encounter an ICE Agent” included a graphic illustration with instructions for committing murder. Additionally, the group Nebraska Antifa tweeted a list of the names, locations, and LinkedIn profiles of nearly 1600 ICE agents. This vitriol has not been limited to members of ICE, however, with actor Peter Fonda going on a Twitter tirade on Wednesday advocating violence against administration officials and their families, including both Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Baron Trump. While Fonda later apologized for his inappropriate tweets, the fact remains that the rhetoric surrounding the immigration issue has reached dangerous levels.

It is unlikely that a meaningful, long-term resolution to the immigration debate will be found soon. Both sides of the issue view their respective positions as politically advantageous, meaning that compromise is unlikely. Democrats have long signaled their refusal to work with the President on crafting immigration reform, and their response to the child separation policy has once again decisively demonstrated that fact. Meanwhile, media portrayals of the administration’s policies have only served to reinforce the partisan divide in the country while contributing to the breakdown of civil discourse. As Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire stated on his Thursday podcast, “now we have reactionary politics on both sides and very little principled opposition to specific violations of liberty.” The highly charged emotions surrounding this issue seem to ensure that no rational, effective legislation will soon be forthcoming.

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