A nationwide enforcement operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents took 121 people into custody last weekend, primarily in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
The operation was described as being aimed at rounding up adults and children who were apprehended last spring in a surge of illegal border crossings. The targets had been issued orders of removal by an immigration court and, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “have exhausted appropriate legal remedies.”
Even the most ardent immigrant sympathizers should acknowledge that a legal process exists in the United States for people who feel they should be allowed to stay here. But once that system is exhausted, ICE has a responsibility to enforce the orders of immigration courts.
Or, as Johnson put it, “our borders are not open to illegal immigration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values.”
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Raids like these, targeted as they may be to finding specific individuals who have been processed through immigration courts, are bound to raise fears among others in the immigrant community who may have crossed the border illegally.
Many built their lives in the U.S. for decades, are productive, abide by laws and have children who were born here and are thus U.S. citizens.
Advocates say many of those people fear being swept up in ICE raids.
While everyone should feel sympathy, it’s doubtful that anyone who has entered the U.S. illegally expects staying here to always be comfortable or easy.
Mass deportation of the 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. is a ridiculous idea. It’s economically unwise, functionally impossible, and it’s not going to happen.
The nation needs comprehensive immigration reform — but who knows when the political climate will permit it?
Meanwhile, chance events — being a witness to a crime, having a traffic accident or watching an ICE raid next door — expose immigrants to risks if they don’t have legal status.
The ICE sweeps last weekend apparently were well targeted. There’s nothing to be gained by indiscriminate roundups of immigrants.
But ICE cannot ignore those who came here last summer, had their hearings and have been ordered deported.
“America is a nation of laws, but those laws are meaningless unless they are enforced,” said Roy Beck, founder and president of NumbersUSA, a Washington, D.C.-based immigration-reduction organization.