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Immigration Enforcement: Trump Steamrolls Ahead

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Democrats think they’ve come up with the perfect strategy to defeat President Trump and the GOP.  Stonewall every one of his legislative initiatives while promoting a sham “Russia-Gate” investigation so that his administration is plagued with perpetual scandal.

But, on one issue at least the Democrats’ strategy is in total shambles.  Trump, relying heavily on his executive authority as president, has been moving full steam ahead to regain control over America’s borders.  And to the chagrin of Democrats, his immigration policies are working.

In just four months Trump has put forward a comprehensive package of enforcement measures that has already sent a clear signal to would-be illegal border crossers: Without a legal visa, you are no longer welcome here.

And many illegals, it seems, have gotten the message. Unauthorized entries are down a whopping 76% compared to the same period last year, according to Department of Homeland security statistics.  And the number of vulnerable children and families massing at the border, and claiming to be asylum seekers, is down even further, a clear sign that Trump’s zero-tolerance strategy has made the border safer and more secure on both sides.

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Democrats insist that they will block a House bill that would authorize major funding for a US Mexico border wall that Trump promised to build during the campaign.  And Trump, in a tactical concession, has agreed to postpone consideration of the issue until 2018.

But wall construction is already well underway, in fact.  Bulldozers — ironically, many of them owned by Hispanic contractors — are adding to sections of the border fence left uncompleted under the so-called “Secure Fence Act” of 2006.  Trump has used his executive authority to restore to funding for the 2006 act and is setting the stage for expanded border barrier construction once Congress finally decides to consider the matter.

But the wall, while highly symbolic, could prove to be the least important arrow in the new administrations enforcement quiver, immigration experts say.

In fact, Trump has already stepped up workplace raids as well as efforts to detain illegal immigrants languishing in local jails. The administration has also reauthorized cooperation between federal immigration officials and local law enforcement, which was all but terminated under Obama.

And sometime this spring, Trump will end the “catch and release” policy that allowed many illegal immigrants to be released on their own recognizance inside America’s cities, creating a catalyst for more illegal flows.

Thanks to these measures, arrests of illegal immigrant are already up 40%  over last year.  And there are signs that some illegal immigrants are beginning to return home rather than risk being arrested, precisely the “self-deport” outcome that many Republican strategists have long predicted as a result of tougher enforcement.

Trump’s enforcement strategy is also breaking precedent with decades of neglect of so-called visa “over-stayers.”  These are people who arrive in the country legally, often as students or tourists, but refuse to leave when their visa expires.  It was long believed that visa over-stayers comprised 40% of those in the country illegally.

But new DHS data shows that this group now vastly overshadows illegal border crossers.  And while Mexicans still constitute a significant portion of the offenders, the largest group turns out to be Canadian, not Latin American.

During the 2016 campaign Trump emphasized the need to better track over-stayers, especially since the 9/11 terrorists arrived legally through just that method.  Assuming Democrats can be convinced not to stonewall Trump further on immigration, addressing the over-stayer issue could turn into one of Trump’s signal contributions to immigration reform.

There’s also the question of expanded workplace enforcement, another issue that has languished on the margins of the immigration debate and received little attention from Obama.

It is well-known – and widely accepted – that the availability of jobs is the real “magnet” that draws illegal immigrants. And yet the current system of employers checking “I-9” forms is widely viewed as hopelessly flawed.  Between stolen social security numbers and forged legal documents, employers and illegals have effectively conspired to evade all serious workplace detection.

Until recently, the workplace verification systems in place – mostly at the federal government level, but in a dozen or so states also — were viewed by critics as highly error-prone, creating an unacceptably high degree of “false positives” – legally authorized persons wrongly identified as illegal — and “false negatives” – illegals that the system failed to catch.  However, continuous improvements have eliminated many of these problems, or reduced them to an acceptable level.

The prognosis for moving serious immigration legislation in Congress may be the best in years.  The Democrats used to control one or both houses of Congress.  Now they control neither.  In the past Democrats were willing to consider a comprehensive package of enforcement measures but only if Republicans agreed to a sweeping amnesty for the 12 million illegal immigrants still residing in the country.

Trump has said that he plans to be flexible — and lenient — when it comes to legalizing minor children who arrived in the country with their parents through no fault of their own, the so-called Dreamers.  But the good news is that Republicans are in a position to formally uncouple the question of enforcement from the issue of amnesty and could well see a bill pass next year that finally gives the GOP the upper hand on immigration reform.

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