Donald Trump swore on a stack of bearer bonds that he would deport criminal aliens “on day one” of his term. By his own reckoning, that could be up to 2 million. That number is a throwaway, a straw man. The actual number of illegal aliens in various local, state, and federal prisons is a shifting number up for dispute.
At yearend 2013, the BOP had custody of 25,800 inmates it identified as noncitizens, 35% of the total number of reported noncitizens held in prisons. Because some states define noncitizens as those born outside the U.S. regardless of current citizenship status, caution should be used in making comparisons across jurisdictions. Texas, Florida, Arizona, and New York reported the largest populations of noncitizen inmates in custody on December 31, 2013.
CNN punted and came up with 73,665. Round up to a clean 100,000, because of “close enough for government work.”
Let’s say these 100,000 were deported immediately upon their sentences ending. That would be easy: ICE deported 139,368 convicted criminals in FY2015. They could handle every single one of them easily. At its peak, ICE deported 409,849 individuals, 225,417 of whom were convicted criminals. Of course, some of the records indicate multiple convictions/multiple deportations of the same individuals.
Three factors caused the decline in 2015, according to ICE (and common sense): “1) the level of cooperation from state and local law enforcement partners; 2) the level of illegal migration 1; and 3) changing migrant demographics.” Basically, some “sanctuary cities” released their illegal aliens without telling the feds, as happened with Kate Steinle’s murderer.
Trump’s actual plan makes sense when you add the digits: a federal task force plus forcing sanctuary cities to abandon their illicit ways might improve things. But out of the several hundred thousand illegals who file through the system through the year, losing track of under 200 who then go out and commit murders, rapes, and other violent crimes (that’s 0.05 percent) that get the press’s attention doesn’t seem as bad a batting average as Trump makes it seem. The problem is that even if catch-and-release is ended, they keep coming back in. Therefore, the wall must happen quickly.
I think Trump has it about right, and is playing to the uninformed voter and the policy wonk at the same time. The message only seems muddled when you try to reconcile the two.
The message to the uninformed voter: this will be fixed, whatever we have to do. It might take concentration camps housing hundreds of thousands on the border, but it will be fixed, with a big, beautiful, masculine wall–a Viagra wall extending through the crust of the earth up to the sky.
To the policy wonk: promising the wall puts the criminals on notice. Tripling the Border Patrol puts the mules, drug dealers, and cartels on notice. Ending sanctuary city funding, and creating a federal task force puts local law enforcement on notice. ICE swaps programs more than Pepsi swaps logos. They recently replaced the Secure Communities program, working with local law enforcement and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program.
To further build on the prioritization of convicted criminals and enlist the support of the many state and local jurisdictions that were not cooperating with ICE, DHS ended Secure Communities and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). With the implementation of PEP, which became fully operational in July 2015, ICE has engaged in expansive efforts to encourage state and local law enforcement partners to collaborate with ICE to ensure the transfer and removal of serious public safety threats.
Trump would likely scrap PEP and replace it with something the feds run, more along the lines of what the Marshals Service does with fugitives. The feds would tie funding to cooperation with ICE and punish those who didn’t fall in line.
In order to sell a real solution, Trump has to peddle the wall, the “throw-em out” and the hard line to the public. If he had come in with the actual solution, he’d have sounded like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.
There’s the big problem we have with Trump, and the problem that will likely keep him out of the White House: He can’t stop selling and he’s always closing. This sale depends on two radically different messages, and it would take a miracle for Trump to ink the deal.
But–and a very yuuuge “but”–if Trump were elected (a yuuuge “if”), and if he did the things he said he would do (another yuuuge “if”), it would probably work. In fact, it’s exactly what’s needed. It’s too bad Trump’s ego prevented him from taking the number two position on a ticket with Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, because he’d be the ideal pitch man, as long as he wasn’t the guy in the Oval Office.