The Trump-Obama Immigration Continuum

The new president is setting the enforcement clock all the way back to 2013


Squad goals. ||| ICE

Is President Donald Trump breaking brand new ground with his deportation raids? A little bit yes, and whole lotta bit no.

In today's L.A. Times, I point out some of the conspiracy theories and newly rediscovered enforcement practices that have come with the Trump presidency, and suggest that you cannot hope to rouse a meaningful defense against today's crackdown without also grappling with yesterday's expulsions. Excerpt:

The recent raids, however, were planned before Trump had lifted a finger on immigration policy, ICE Field Office Director for Los Angeles David Marin told reporters. And of the 161 people arrested in the California sweeps, "all but five would've been cases we would've prioritized for enforcement previously."

Much of what Trump has done is set the immigration enforcement clock all the way back to 2013. The Secure Communities federal/local data-sharing program that Trump is exhuming was only shuttered by Obama at the end of 2014. The resumed collection of non-targeted "collateral" aliens during immigration raids was the norm well past the 2012 Democratic National Convention paean to "DREAMers."

Even Trump's announced intentions to prioritize the expulsion of "bad hombres" has echoes of Obama in both policy and rhetoric. As recently as 2015, the 44th president described his approach as "making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gangbangers or criminals, that we're deporting them as quickly as possible, that we're focusing our resources there." Trump is hardly the first resident of 1600 Pennsylvania to be tagged as the "deporter in chief." […]

The fact is, starting with the 2006 collapse of comprehensive immigration reform, successive pro-reform administrations deliberately used stepped-up enforcement as a political tool—George W. Bush to call the bluff on restrictionists who derailed a treasured second-term goal, Obama to build up "credibility" for legislative negotiations that never took off.

When we give that much power and discretion to the president, and subject millions of lives to the passions of national politics, whimsical and arbitrary punishment will be the norm, not the exception.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: National Security Pick Declines Trump's Offer, ICE Narrative Questioned, Tony Blair Urges Brexit Resistance: A.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Can we talk about wet foot, dry foot?

    1. I’ve read many Dr Seuss books but I don’t remember that one.

  2. There are many things Trump is doing that echo standard polkcy from Obama. People want to just love Obama (he was so cool!!!) and hate Trump. This is much easier than people looking at a policy and actually thinking about where they stand.

    1. Principals are always more exciting than principles.

    2. Also Obama was good at making himself seem like a chill reasonable guy. Trump tends to blurt things out in a way that shows how grotesque they are.

      1. Obama was good at making himself seem like a chill reasonable guy

        That basically covers huge swaths of why the left thinks Obama’s shitty policies were awesome.

        They don’t actually know half the shit he actually did, they just know he *sounded reasonable* and made the right presidential-sounding noises when he was asked questions. He teleprompted people into intellectual somnambulism. Ok, maybe “some deportations happened!” on his watch, but “he meant well!”. Trump does the same thing, but he does it while frothing stupidly and pretending to take personal enjoyment in the idea that immigrants will be thrown back to their 3rd world hellholes. He is an evil man, ergo his policies share his impure intents.

      2. Also Obama was good at making himself seem like a chill reasonable guy.

        Umm no, that was his handlers and the fawning MSM. He had a tendency to make a fool of himself when forced to go off-script.

  3. The focus on Trump’s style and bombast masks the degree of continuity with his more insidious predecessor. Obama didn’t give himself public high-fives when he deported people. Yet he deported massive numbers of people anyway, just as Trump is doing.

    Similarly, Obama did not pick fights with the media during press conferences. He simply subpoenaed their records and threatened to prosecute reporters.

    Obama did not talk about “so-called judges.” He merely confronted the Supreme Court during the state of the union speech and falsely claimed that Citizens United overruled “a hundred years of precedent.” (That’s why Alito was mouthing, “not true, not true”).

    Throughout Obama’s presidency, the media focused on his suave words and ignored his actions, e.g., Obama criticizing campus speech codes while his Department of Education was issuing directives that all but mandated them. Now they are focusing on Trump’s style while ignoring the continuity in substance.

  4. And the Democrats are now arguing against ANY enforcement of US immigration law.
    If I bought into the ‘Trump is playing 3D checker’ line, I’d say he’s maneuvered them into a loosing hand for 2020.
    But I suspect Trump is a dumbass and the Democrats are retards – or vis-a-versa.

  5. Wow there is so much wrong here I don’t even know where to start. The purpose of the wall isn’t to build it, it’s to not build it. Why? So that they have a pretext to round up the bad hombres and the voting felons by the millions and detain them indefinitely in private prisons to fulfill the sick, sadistic fantasies of the Trumpkencucks. That’s the difference between Trump and Obama. And it is already starting. They are just testing the boundaries. Amazing to see Reason play along and aid and abet it. (Sad.) However they are discovering that the American people will come out by the millions to say, “Don’t even think about it!”

    #NoBanNoWall #NoBanAddictionMyth

  6. Yeah, I kind of shake my head when I see all these articles suddenly popping up about people being deported. It’s exactly the same stuff that was happening under Obama, but only people who have been paying close attention would know that. It’s always great to have more coverage of what federal law enforcement is doing, so I won’t complain about that. It just sucks that it requires a Republican in office for it to happen.

    1. Obama changed the definition of deportation to include those turned away at the border. So the numbers looked the same or larger but the actual actions were not. The number of deportations, as in ICE or CPB grabbing someone who is already in the country and passed the border did drop in the last few years of Obama. Obama very much called off the dogs on immigration enforcement.

      So this is a change, but as Matt puts it, a change back to 2013 not some new age of closed border darkness.

      1. Sure, but my point is that all of these raids and deportations suddenly being reported on were planned before Trump became President (as mentioned in the article) and would still be happening under Clinton. They just weren’t reported on, and wouldn’t be now if Clinton had won.

        1. This is true. The funny thing is that the media is doing Trump a huge favor by reporting them that way. One of the biggest complaints the public has about politicians is that they never follow through on their campaign promises. By reporting on those raids and pretending they are some big onominous move by Trump, the media is just telling the country “Trump means what he said and is going to keep his campaign promises”.

          It is pretty curious to me how the media thinks that is going to do anything but help Trump. Those stories rally the pro open borders crowd, but those people were already against Trump. Meanwhile, the closed border people see those stories and say “finally, we put someone in there who was going to really do something about this”. And the people in the middle who don’t vote on the issue either way see Trump as being someone who follows through on what they say, which is a huge positive for most people.

          If the media really wanted to hurt Trump, they would suddenly discover the harms of illegal immigration and start playing it up every day and make Trump look like he either isn’t following through on his promises or is too incompetent to do so. That would hurt Trump. Playing up those raids might as well be paid re-elect Trump advertising.

      2. Thanks for pointing that out John, too many people around here can’t seem to grasp how changing the metrics to change the conversation works. Obama wanted it both ways, and changing the metrics is how he managed to both deport fewer people yet look like he was cracking down on paper.

        Brilliant, really, considering how little most people are paying attention.

  7. The country doesn’t support amnesty to a degree great enough to make it politically possible. If it did, the Democrats would have done it in 2009. They had the huge majorities in both houses of Congress. All they would have needed to do was pick off a couple of Republican Senators to vote for cloture and that would have been it. Yet, they didn’t do it.

    Why? Because if they had it would have taken away the reason many Hispanics were voting for them and given restrictionists a reason to vote against them in revenge. Once you had Amnesty, supporters would have started voting on other issues and opponents would have kept voting against Democrats or switched their votes away from them out of anger. So it made no political sense to pass it.

    There isn’t a national consensus on amnesty. There is also not a political consensus on taking additional measures to restrict immigration either. I can’t see even the most Republican Congress ever repealing the 1965 revisions to the INA or doing anything other than maybe reforming or restricting the HB1 program.

    1. I think you could get to a voter consensus with a mixture of tighter borders, amnesty with a pathway to citizenship, and a guest worker program. But as you say, the parties don’t have the same incentives to make it work. Republicans don’t want to agree to anything that gives Democrats more voters, and Democrats don’t want to agree to anything that doesn’t give them more voters.

      1. You could get a consensus, but remember, it is not about consensus. It is about revealed preference. People can only vote for one candidate. So when they say “I support this”, that is nice but it only matters if they are willing to change their vote on that issue. Things get done when the number of people who are willing to vote on an issue is larger than those who are willing to vote based on their opposition to it such that it is politically profitable for one party or the other to do it.

        The problem with the compromise you give is that while it probably is supported by a majority of the pubic, there are a lot more people who would change their votes based on their opposition to it than there are people who would change their votes based on their support.

        1. That would be true if we were talking purely about compromise, but that’s not quite what I’m talking about. The thing is, there are a lot of people who are strongly against illegal immigration, but would support bigger legal quotas and guest programs if they thought the borders would actually be secured. There are also a lot of people who would support amnesty, if they didn’t believe it would lead to a huge new influx of illegal immigrants like it has in the past. It’s not so much about compromise as a lack of trust that there will be any actual follow-through. And that lack of trust is due to the parties having different agendas than their members.

          1. “The thing is, there are a lot of people who are strongly against illegal immigration, but would support bigger legal quotas and guest programs if they thought the borders would actually be secured. There are also a lot of people who would support amnesty, if they didn’t believe it would lead to a huge new influx of illegal immigrants like it has in the past.”

            Agreeing to a compromise in the US system is a good way to get bent over. The Reagan amnesty was actually a “get tough” bill that was supposed to secure the border and prohibit hiring illegals. Apparently everyone ignored half the compromise since a migration wave happened. You can see this kind of game played with every compromise, the side which subsequently has power rolls back the half they don’t like. Bush cut all tax brackets, Obama raised the top one (and Hillary wanted to raise it more). End up with exactly what the socialists want.

            Similarly anyone who says we can open the borders, then dreams we can get the elimination of welfare for the masses who show up as part of a compromise (much less at some future date) is dreaming. Kicking people out once they are here is already hard, but taking away benefits from people dependent on them is pretty much impossible.

    2. I’ve been saying forever that the ‘status quo’ is exactly what Americans want and of course that’s why it’s the status quo. We want cheap labor and interesting foods, and we want to pat ourselves on the back for being so worldly. Trump might have tapped some discontent in certain quarters but at the end of the day, nothing is going to change.

      1. They want immigrants, but they want them to be seen but not heard. A situation where you have a few million young men who show up and work illegally and sent their money back home but don’t have kids they send to school or take welfare or commit more than your usual small crimes associated with young men is something the public is more than willing to tolerate.

        Where the public gets pissed off is when families start showing up and overwhelming their schools and taking over neighborhoods and driving up social welfare costs or when gangs and serious crime problems develop that spill out of the usual immigrant neighborhoods.

        It amazes me how Obama had a gift for doing the exact wrong thing to win over the public to his side of an issue. The quickest way to turn the public against immigration and start demanding a crack down is to admit a bunch of minor children and refugee families. And that of course is exactly what he did.

  8. So what can Trump do? What he is doing, enforce the existing law with as much vigor as he can. Sure, the pro amnesty people won’t like it, but they didn’t vote for him anyway. His supporters will like it and those in the middle are unlikely to care since it won’t represent a change in the law or some big act of Congress that catches the public’s attention. And for every sob story the open borders people can throw up about some mother being deported, Trump can throw up ten about some MS 13 or Mexican Mafia guy who should have been deported 20 years ago finally being sent packing. That will end up being a draw.

  9. This is a great opportunity for Libertarians to attract lib voters who are starting to appreciate the dangers of giving government too much power, as they did under Obama. Instead you are alienating them by defending Trump’s intended round up and massacre. Two libertarian principles can be elucidated: Don’t give government so much money and then they won’t have the resources to do ‘enforcement’ and don’t give government too much power and then they can’t arrest you for protesting or burning a flag or making a mistake on voting registration. Why this jerking off to Trump’s EOs? Why? Why be a self-hating libertarian? I’m honestly curious.

    1. lib voters who are starting to appreciate the dangers of giving government too much power

      LOL! Now that’s what I call a Friday Funny!

      1. Now see – this is interesting. If you really don’t think that libs are capable of learning from their mistakes – then why even be a libertarian? What’s the point? I’m honestly curious:

        1. What’s funny is your assertion that they are “starting to appreciate the dangers of giving government too much power”. No. They simply want somebody else in charge.

          1. Wow – so you have peered behind the curtain of human motivation and now know all their secrets. Cool!

            1. See the recent Liberal love affair with the CIA for why they still aren’t serious about state power.

              1. Feeding the vermin only encourages them.

                1. Calling me ‘vermin’ only proves you’re a Nazi.

      2. Please do not feed the vermin.

        1. Thanks for showing yourself for the Nazi that you are.

    2. They’re still on Team Boromir, not Team Frodo.

  10. Trump is single-handedly discrediting big government by showing how powerful and capricious it is. He is using the age-old technique of scaring the populace to create a crisis and then install an expansive police state to ‘protect’ us. However this is blatant extortion. Just watch him speak – he is obviously trying to whip up a frenzy about crime and destruction and rampaging masses of illegals (and muslims and blacks). When in fact the danger is more the American kids who return here having learned the art of tactical snipery – these are the ones who should be subjected to ‘extreme vetting’ and monitored carefully if they are even allowed to return. Why are we as libertarians defending this stupid, self-destructive policy of kicking out illegals, who cooked, cleaned, and built stuff for us for decades – they are a huge asset to our country and don’t represent a real threat – when this is all predicated on Trump’s hysterical manic extortion? Why are decent libertarians falling for it? I’m honestly curious.

    1. Unfortunately this is not true. He is being portrayed as the essence of libertarian ideals by the (leftist) press, because some of his cabinet picks are kinda libertarian. Of course other of his cabinet picks are unreconstructed fascists (like Sessions, for example). And the press is treating them all as Koch plants, even though the Kochs have been playing hands-off ever since Trump won. This is going to be very bad for the national perception of ‘small government’ advocates–all of Trump’s initiatives are being dumped in the same basket of wild-eyed, poorly planned spasms.

      1. Please do not feed the vermin.

        1. Calling me ‘vermin’ is a Nazi technique to dehumanize me. I’m sorry only that I’m the one who has to point this out.

      2. Wrong – this is a tremendous opportunity to educate people on what we believe. Or just roll over, up to you.

  11. As of late morning Trump’s ’round-up’ initiative may have taken a really bad turn–far worse than anything Obama could have tried. There are rumors he’s planning to deploy the National Guard to run these round-ups all around the country, not just near the Mexican border. I’m sure that will go well…. Sending 100,000 soldiers out into the hinterland to look for illegal cherry harvesters couldn’t possibly go wrong, could it?

    1. Reference for skeptics:…..B113351621

      1. Someone in DHS communed with the good idea fairy and wrote a memo. Understand to do this, he would have to put the Guard in what is known as Title 32 502(f) status. He couldn’t put them on Title 10 status because the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits people in title 10 status from engaging in law enforcement, which this would be.

        Title 32 502F allows the President to put the Guard in title 32 status and thus be able to engage in law enforcement for whatever mission the President wants. The problem is there isn’t very much money appropriated for that purpose. So, to do that Trump would have to go to Congress and get them to appropriate the money. I am a bit skeptical that even this Congress would appropriate the money to use the National Guard to round up illegals.

        Also, DOD and the National Guard Bureau and the States are loath to see Guardsman in uniform out doing LE work. The shadow of Kent State still looms large. So while DHS may love this idea, the Pentagon would go ape shit at the thought of it. And so would their allies in Congress.

        In short, I really don’t think this will ever happen. And it is certainly nowhere close to happening now.

        1. I certainly hope you’re right, but we’ll see…

          1. I am very confident about the mechanics of how you would use the Guard to conduct immigration raids. What Congress would do if asked to appropriate money, I can only guess. I wouldn’t think they would. But who knows.

    2. DHS said this “memo” was an incredibly early draft among well over a dozen preliminary proposals that was never seriously considered. I’m pretty sure Obama had a plan to invade China if needed. I don’t think it was ever seriously considered.

        1. Here’s what passes for “news” at the top of the front page:

          “Twitter reacts to Trump’s wild press conference”
          “Trumps’ lifestyle is ‘logistical nightmare’ at taxpayer expense”
          “Black lawmakers dismayed by Trump’s invite to reporter”
          “Mainstream media called out by President”
          “Quotes from Trump’s surreal press conference”

          By now, I’m pretty much immune to “Trump’s gonna!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” stories. If someone said he was gonna nuke DC, I’d move there to be safe.

          1. Wow. They are really obsessed. Do you ever wonder if they secretly love Trump? As he must be great for clicks since they talk him 24/7. If pence became potus what would they do?

            Also it bugs the hell out of me using words like: explodes, destroyed, obliterated + that what twitter users say is now considered news and lumped as all of twitter rather than maybe a few thousand individuals

            Using twitter posts as news is the height of laziness and suggests the entire media is nothing more than a tabloid now. quantity over quality

    3. White House is denying this ever happened or was planned. Dollars to donuts this was a Tyrion Lannister-esque attempt to ferret out the leakers. “Cut off his balls and feed them to the goats”

      1. Wow do i ever loathe the media. “we are concerned about people who feel threatened by trump….so let’s push stories without seeing if they were true to get people riled up!”

  12. NOTE & WARNING: The links provided below contain direct quotes from Obama and his officials.…..z2xkzioeHR

    The Left-Leaning LA Times posted an article that shows that the Obama administration, the Illegal Alien lobby, and the major media outlets have been in collusion to depict the “high” deportation numbers. The exact opposite is true since the beginning of the current President’s policy. Interior deportation has and will be lower than 1973 rates. This is leading towards more people overstaying their visas and currently, more Illegal Alien minors crossing the border. Obama has just recently instructed border patrol to not turn back those Illegal Aliens on record as having entered illegally as priors, but to let them pass IF they don’t have a major criminal record. After the first Illegal Entry, it is a felony each time thereafter.

    Even Obama in 2011, called the deportation numbers deceptive when talking to Hispanic voters. President Obama said statistics that show his administration is on track to deport more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration are misleading.

  13. “The statistics are a little deceptive,” he said Wednesday in an online discussion aimed at Hispanic voters.”

    “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero ? it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement…..nline-talk…..ay/?page=1

    Obama gives free pass to businesses that hire illegals
    Audits, fines drop for employers

    “President Obama took office vowing to go after unscrupulous employers who hire illegal immigrants, but worksite audits have plunged over the last year and a half, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Immigration Studies, tumbling along with the rest of immigration enforcement.”…..nt-2021453
    Immigration Reform 2015: Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program Protects 87 Percent Of Undocumented Immigrants, Report Finds

    “The refocus in law enforcement efforts has effectively protected 9.6 million of the United States’ estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, the report found. In all, a full implementation of Obama’s changes would reduce annual deportations to approximately 25,000…”

    “The federal government’s chief deportation agency has seen its success plummet under President Obama, and its chief, Sarah R. Saldana, will tell Congress on Tuesday that they’ve had trouble adapting to the changing face of illegal immigration and a lack of cooperation from both American cities and from foreign countries.

    Ms. Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), says in testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee that the dramatic drop in deportations is a reflection of a trickier set of circumstances and pressures from all sides.

    She said she had to pull agents off their regular duties during last summer’s illegal immigrant surge at the border, which meant fewer people focusing on deporting the longtime illegal immigrants living in the interior of the U.S. And she said the lack of cooperation from states, counties and cities when agents ask them to hold an illegal immigrant for pickup has also hindered efforts.”

  16. “ICE Director Salda?a Admits Dramatic Decline in Criminal Alien Deportations

    Testifying last week before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the Obama administration’s lax interior enforcement policies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Salda?a admitted a dramatic decline in criminal alien deportations. Sessions was not satisfied, noting that her agency’s budget for deportation was increased from $2.6 billion in 2011 to $3.4 billion this year, and that the government even returned part of that allotment. (Id.) Summing up the hearing, Sessions said the decline in removals “demonstrated the failure of our system, when the one area that we were promised was going to be aggressively pursued was criminal aliens, and that is plummeting also. So there’s nothing really working effectively.”…..und-checks

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.