COMMENTARY: Trump delivered on immigration enforcement


Since President Donald Trump’s election, dozens of conservative and liberal pundits have offered their opinions on why a Republican billionaire, Beltway-outsider beat a charter member of the entrenched Democratic elite. Invariably, analysts pointed to one issue that resounded with voters more intensely than any other: immigration.

Candidate Trump campaigned on vigorous border and interior enforcement. Opponent Hillary Clinton indicated that her administration would support higher immigration levels, and continue President Barack Obama’s indifference to enforcement. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, conservative columnist and former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan perfectly summed up most Americans’ sentiments about unchecked immigration. Noonan wrote that many Americans suffered from illegal immigration, specifically its effect on jobs, costs and crime.

Moreover, and this is crucial in post-election parsing, the protected — the wealthy and big business — do fine with more immigration, but for the unprotected, blue-collar America, no immigration enforcement means competing with more workers who will accept lower wages. Average workers who hadn’t received a pay hike in four decades watched aghast and angry as immigration levels soared to record levels. Frustrated, voters realized that no one in Washington cared anything about their or the nation’s best interests, and cast their ballots for Trump.

Like Noonan, the liberal Associated Press acknowledged President Trump’s premise that immigration should serve American interests, and called his proposal to limit legal immigration “a potentially historic policy shift” for the Republican Party.

Going into 2018, the question is whether President Trump has rewarded his base, and delivered on his promises. The answer is that despite united Democratic opposition, a federal court system that has defied immigration laws to rule against the president, and an unprecedented, intensely adversarial media, President Trump has in large part succeeded. Nowhere is his success more apparent than immigration enforcement, long ignored by the Obama administration.

Compared to the Obama White House’s non-enforcement baseline, which former Immigration and Enforcement director John Morton told the Los Angeles Times had zero chance of removing illegal immigrants, the Trump Administration is a resounding success.

The most significant gains by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were made in administrative arrests and interior removals. Administrative arrests totaled more than 143,000; of those, 110,568 occurred after Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration — a 42 percent increase over the same prior-year period.

Interior removals were also significantly higher in fiscal 2017 than last year. In fiscal 2017, ICE removed more than 81,000 undocumented immigrants from the interior. More than 61,000 of those removals occurred after President Trump took office — a 37 percent increase over the same fiscal 2016 period.

Although the anti-Trump media wrote fear-mongering stories which alleged that ICE conducted indiscriminate raids and sweeps, the truth is that 92 percent of immigrant arrests involved criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, were immigration fugitives from justice, or were illegal re-entrants.

Finally, countries that refuse to repatriate their criminal nationals dropped from 12 in April to nine by year’s end. Four countries that remained uncooperative received visa sanctions in fiscal 2017 — Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone. ICE’s message to those countries: Cooperate or face the consequences.

Despite being stymied by congressional open-borders advocates and federal court critics, President Trump has made good on his immigration enforcement promises.