Last week the Obama Administration said that it will finally pursue a plan announced in August to clean its heavy deportation workload and focus only on the removals of immigrants who pose a real threat to public safety.
The announcement was welcomed considering that immigrant advocates have for years tried to persuade the Administration to reverse a mass deportation policy.
But it also raises concerns. Advocates rightly worry about the lack of details in the execution of the plan, and the apparent absence of an appeals process. What will happen, for example, if a detainee wishes to challenge a removal decision? Or what criteria will guide the granting of work permits for those who are allowed to stay? And how many times can a work permit be renewed?
While we, too, support this step by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we can’t help but regret how confused our federal government acts with respect to immigration policy.
To detain thousands of immigrants, most of whom have no criminal record, and then to later recognize it was the wrong approach, is a mistake that not only damages families and communities – but costs millions of dollars just when the federal government faces a grave deficit.
In fact the detention and removal of only one person costs $26,000 according to some estimates.
The process of reviewing close to 300,000 cases will be arduous, long and ongoing for as long as flawed programs such as Secure Communities continue to feed immigration courts with new cases.
The Administration must rethink its approach to immigration, and focus on border control, workplace enforcement and family reunification.
Congress should take note of this fiscal and human tragedy and finally work to fix our broken immigration system. Sadly, we are aware of how unlikely it is that our current Congress will follow such a course. No wonder the 99% refuse to drink its kool aid.