The new immigration policies President Donald Trump's administration released Tuesday make America less humane; they target millions of people who have been in this country for years, have contributed to society and have raised children here. They make America less free because they portend the creation of a massive "deportation force" that will hunt through communities coast-to-coast for those here illegally, inevitably sweeping up the innocent and increasing racial and ethnic profiling. But most of all, they will make America less safe.
Mr. Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, says the president intends to "take the shackles off" immigration officers to make "the No. 1 priority" removing those "who pose a threat to our country." Actually, that was the No. 1 priority under the Obama administration, which instructed immigration enforcement agents to prioritize deportation of those who committed serious crimes while in the United States. The Trump policy would allow for deportation of people who violate traffic laws or who have even been accused of a crime but not convicted. Innocent until proven guilty no longer applies, and immigration agents will have vastly expanded authority to determine on their own who constitutes a "threat."
Immigration courts are facing a huge backlog as it is, some 540,000 cases with an average wait of more than two years. In some courts, the delay is much longer. Mr. Trump says he wants to throw more resources at the system, but how much and how quickly? For the time being, flooding the courts with people who have not shown themselves to be a danger would only delay the deportation of people who are.
Mr. Trump plans to deal with that to some degree by vastly expanding a program that eliminates due process for some immigrants caught in this country illegally. The "expedited removal" program, as it was used by the Obama administration, allowed for the elimination of some protections and hearings before deportation for people caught near the border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. Mr. Trump wants to expand it nationwide and draw in those who have been here for up to two years.
The effect of all his efforts will be to send the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants deeper into the shadows and spread fear even among those who are here legally that they can be harassed, arrested and threatened with deportation even if they have done nothing wrong at all. We know that will happen because it did, right here in Baltimore, in 2007 when the George W. Bush-era Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office's field director told a deputy to "bring more bodies in." Agents, told to produce bigger arrest statistics, descended on a 7-Eleven on South Broadway and swept up 24 Latinos, including a janitor who was on his way to Johns Hopkins Hospital to visit his son, who was being treated for cancer.
Mr. Trump's efforts to deputize local police into immigration enforcement will make immigrants reluctant to report crimes for fear that they or their friends and families could become targets of the "deportation force," which means they will be at greater risk to be victimized, and criminals — whether illegal immigrants or not — will stand a greater chance of going free. And it will lead to racial profiling. We've seen it in both Maryland jurisdictions that already participate in the program. In 2008, Frederick County sheriff's deputies violated the Fourth Amendment when they spotted a Salvadoran woman eating a sandwich behind the grocery store where she worked and arrested her. Despite their lack of legal authority to enforce civil immigration law, she spent 45 days in jail. Just last month, Bel Air police detained woman who was born in India for questioning about her immigration status when she was doing nothing more than walking down the street. She had lived in the community for three decades.
For all Mr. Trump's talk of "bad hombres" and Mexico "sending" rapists to the United States, the fact remains that immigrants, regardless of their legal status, commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. We have no objection to putting our resources into deporting those who do pose a threat to society, but millions of people who are in this country illegally are guilty of nothing more than trying to provide a better life for themselves and their families. Yet Mr. Trump wants to pour billions of dollars into finding them, detaining them, shipping them across the border and walling them out.
In Baltimore, we have real problems with violent crime, and they have nothing to do with illegal immigration. How much safer could we be if President Trump devoted the federal government's resources on solving an actual crisis rather than the made-up one he used to get applause on the campaign trail?