DHS Detains Unauthorized Immigrants as They Attempt to Leave the U.S.

Written by on August 23, 2011 in Enforcement with 4 Comments

It is tempting to imagine that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a kinder and more just approach to its immigration enforcement mission.  After all, the department announced in recent days that it will henceforth focus its enforcement efforts on “high priority” immigration cases; that is, those cases involving serious criminals and individuals who are a threat to public safety or national security.  While this is a welcome, long overdue announcement, we must keep in mind that there are still DHS enforcement policies in place that are in dire need of repair.

For instance, according to a story in the New York Times earlier this month, U.S. immigration agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border have taken to detaining and sometimes arresting unauthorized immigrants as they try to leave the United States and return to Mexico. In other words, after pouring billions of dollars into immigration enforcement programs to make the United States as unwelcoming as possible to unauthorized immigrants, the Obama Administration has decided to make their departure just as difficult and to torment them as they leave. This policy is as nonsensical as it is cruel.

To be fair, the Administration is snaring unauthorized immigrants as it attempts to do what previous administrations have not: stem the flow of drug money and guns from the United States to Mexico, into the waiting arms of drug cartel leaders. But this neither explains nor justifies why immigration agents are arresting immigrants who have no connections to drug money or gun smuggling—and who are leaving the country. As the Times notes, even some vehemently anti-immigrant groups oppose this practice on the grounds that it slows, and perhaps even discourages, the departure of unauthorized immigrants from the country. In a surreal moment last year, the president of the nativist organization Americans for Legal Immigration issued a statement saying that:

“This is about the only situation we would ever advocate that our immigration laws be waived. We want to encourage the illegals to leave America on their own and thus we ask Obama to provide them safe passage out of America.”

When questioned about its illogical policy, the Administration resorts to a generic law-and-order explanation. An anonymous “administration official” told the Times: “We’re not trying to discourage anyone from leaving, but we do want to send the message that there are consequences for breaking immigration laws.”

As Greg Siskind points out in the AILA Leadership Blog: “Bad policies have consequences, as well. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have figured this out but the officials carrying out the bad policy.” Apparently, the Obama Administration doesn’t see the irony of making it hard for unauthorized immigrants to leave the county after expending so much time and effort telling them to leave the country.

Photo by nathangibbs.




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  • John Randolph

    DHS or US Customs and Border Protection does not have a statistical designation or category for these “southbound” arrests. In other words, the data from these arrests are viewed (and skewed) as the same as the data that they have for people who they run down and catch in the middle of the night.

    Boosting the numbers gives the politicians supporting these dysfunctional government agencies more justification to ask for larger budget increases.

    It also gives them higher arrest rates in order to prove that we are being invaded by “criminals”.

  • Love2Watch

    It only tells us that those person that followed Mr Obama’s order has abused thier authority in implementing immigration policy. Hunger for power thats what causes for draconian policy. It is very sad America has change for the worst, people’s attitude has change so much from good to ruthless evil hearts. America wake up

  • Krystal L

    As I was driving to Mexico last year, my uncle-in-law was pulled from the vehicle about 10 miles from the Mexico-Texas border and arrested. My 2 year old daughter and I were “held” for almost two hours before we were released. I had to wait 10 hours for him to be deported and released at a border city 100 miles away even though we could see Mexico in front of us.

    While flying to Mexico last week, I was shocked to see the CBP/ICE agents pulling passports from everyone as they were about to board a flight to Mexico City, detaining and fingerprinting them, I’m sure to meet a lovely quota. It caused the flight to be delayed over an hour and served no purpose at all.

  • ted 409

    i just heard on bill oreilly that theyre using this as an attempt to plug up the american legal system to show they are correct in deporting criminals only because the american legal system cant handle it all if all illegals are deported