Yesterday, Attorney General Sessions signaled the Trump administration’s determination to crack down on illegal immigration. In a speech delivered in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, Sessions declared this “the Trump era” and warned that those who cross the border illegally risk prosecution under the full force of the law.
NPR News responded by reporting on the lives of several Mexicans deported under President Trump. Having lived in the U.S. for many years, they were having trouble even finding their way around Mexico City. One former illegal immigrant cried at length during his interview.
I feel sorry for the deportees, some of whom are now separated from the children they sired while living in the U.S. However, I want to add the following points.
First, President Obama was known during much of his presidency by pro-immigrant groups as “the deporter-in-chief.” According to the NPR report, his administration deported more people in February 2016 than the Trump administration did in February 2017.
Did NPR run any stories during the Obama years about the hardship endured by illegal immigrants who were deported to Mexico? Did it give voice to crying deportees during this era? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
Second, the three illegal immigrants featured in the NPR story all committed crimes in the U.S. One had engaged in drunk driving; one had committed welfare fraud; a third (from what I could tell) had a brush with the law stemming from a fight.
Therefore, it appears that if the three had obeyed American law after entering the country illegally, they would not have been deported. This state of affairs is consistent with what I take to be current Trump administration policy: no mass deportations, but deportation of illegal immigrants encountered as a result of law-breaking. This strikes me as a reasonable policy.
Third, adjusting to life in Mexico after years in the U.S. is surely difficult, but less so, I imagine, than adjusting to life in the U.S. after entering our country illegally for the first time. One would expect that, in time, these folks will re-acclimate themselves to Mexico.
Fourth, every person who enters this country illegally assumes the risk of deportation. And every illegal immigrant who sires children in this country assumes the risk of being separated from these children.
Even so, it was neither unreasonable nor unfair of NPR to report on the hardship that deported immigrants face in Mexico — provided that it filed similar reports during the heyday of Obama-era deportations.
UPDATE: To be clear, I’m not saying that Obama deserved to be called the deporter-in-chief or that the statistics pertaining to the number of deportations during his administration aren’t padded and/or misleading (they are misleading because the stats include people turned away at or near the border). However, Obama deported plenty of immigrants who had been living in the “interior” of the U.S. — more than 200,000 of them in 2009 — and NPR could easily have reported on the hardship these folks encountered when they returned to Mexico.
Maybe NPR did, but I doubt it.