Monday, May 01, 2017

Experts say fear tactic working to cut down illegal immigration, but actions speak louder than words

While President Trump's travel ban, his vow to target illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall have run into obstacles, experts agree that one tactic to stop illegal border crossings is working, fear, David Nakamura reports for The Washington Post. Federal data shows that the number of apprehensions at the border was 12,193 in March, down from 40,000 per month at the end of 2016.

Immigration experts "attribute at least part of this shift to the use of sharp, unwelcoming rhetoric by Trump and his aides, as well as the administration's showy use of enforcement raids and public spotlighting of crimes committed by immigrants," Nakamura writes. "The tactics were aimed at sending a political message to those in the country illegally or those thinking about trying to come." 

Through the middle of March federal agents "arrested 21,362 immigrants, mostly convicted criminals, compared with 16,104 during the same period last year," Nakamura writes. "Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled, to 5,441 in that period." At the same time the number of immigrants planned for deportation is up, although the Trump administration has faced the same hurdle as the Obama administration in trying to get countries to take back convicted criminals. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection graphic)
Even immigrant rights advocates and restrictionist groups "said there is little doubt that the Trump administration’s tough talk has had impact," Nakamura writes. Doris Meissner, who served as the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Clinton administration, told him, "The bottom line is that they have entirely changed the narrative around immigration. The result of that is that, yes, you can call it words and rhetoric, and it certainly is, but it is changing behavior. It is changing the way the U.S. is viewed around the world, as well as the way we’re talking about and reacting to immigration within the country."

Experts caution that it's too early to say the fear tactic has been a success, because slashing illegal border crossings could be reversed if the Trump administration "fails to follow through on more aggressive enforcement actions that will require more than just rhetorical bombast," Nakamura writes. "Many of the other initiatives Trump has called for—including additional detention centers and thousands of new Border Patrol officers and immigration agents—are costly. Others, such as his vow to withhold federal funds from 'sanctuary cities' that protect immigrants, are facing legal challenges."

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