While everyone’s justifiably been hemming and hawing over Trump’s latest executive order fiasco that bans Muslims from seven countries, I’ve been worried about two other orders that will affect our immigrant communities deeply. The basic purpose of these two orders, released just two days before the Muslim ban, is to end the practice often referred to as “catch and release” and to order the Department of Homeland Security to allocate all available resources to building and maintaining detention facilities for immigrants, documented or not. This is to be acheived by contracting with private prison corporations. These two orders are the real meat behind Trump’s immigration war, not the recent Muslim ban which was so poorly written and blatantly illegal that one has to assume it was released to draw attention away from the other two bans.
Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to explain what this means and how it will translate into actual policy in regards to immigration enforcement. But before I do that, I want to elaborate on why you should take my words as gospel on the subject of immigration. No I’m not an attorney, and I’ve been out of the immigration biz for some time, but I know immigration law backwards and forwards. And I can tell you what Trump, or better yet Bannon is up to.
Who am I and how do I know this?
I am a former Senior Patrol Agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. Unusual for a liberal I know. I don’t advertise this; my Twitter profile simply says I’m a former federal agent. It’s not out of shame. I am proud of my accomplishments. It’s out of not agreeing with our laws regarding immigration. I have no desire to argue with people who think they’re scholars of immigration just because they’ve shared a few memes on the subject. Nor do I want to get into a Twitter war with other immigration agents who may defend every policy regardless of how it effects people or how it punishes those simply looking for a job and in turn does nothing to the smugglers or employers who hire them. Yes, I’m a flaming liberal who believes in immigrant (documented or not) rights, but I also believe in protecting our borders. I just don’t agree with how we do it. It is a backwards, poorly designed system that punishes innocent, hard working people. Unfortunately, Trump is making it worse.
But those arrests were not the norm. Coming from my internship as a Mobile, Alabama District Attorney Investigator where I helped put murderers and rapists away, I found my job as a BP agent frustrating. Waiting hours for transport was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, and I learned that contrary to popular belief, some of those I apprehended at 3 a.m. on the top of a mountain were quite educated, even more so than myself. Most though could not read or write, signing an X for their signature and using the Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo for their birthday because they did not know on what day they were born. I met Native Indians from Oaxaca and Tlaxcala, and people from a far south as Zacatecas and Quintana Roo.
My job did not harden me to their circumstances. The vast majority of arrests came from Mexico: grandma, mom and dad, kids and even some babies. I often stopped my truck at the convenience store in Tecate before returning them to their country so I could buy the mothers diapers and formula for their babies. I asked them to not cross in the dangerous mountains that took so many lives. In turn, they would sometimes ask to be let go, but I swore an oath that I would not violate.
Eventually, I became a Senior Agent working in prosecutions and a San Diego Sector Intelligence Agent. Both are positions held by few agents. Truth was that most agents had no idea how to complete the paperwork for a simple deportation. BP was and continues to be known for hiring the least educated and least experienced persons. They have reduced their standards in an effort to flood the border with agents and therefore, there is a high turn over rate and high level of corruption. Those that are professional, career oriented agents tend to leave for greener pastures.
Personally, I needed to get away from those that were not criminals and work on the smugglers themselves, the majority of whom were American. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the USBP had little interest in prosecutions. I was only allowed to go after the actual drivers and not the organizers. This I could have done at the station level. Even when I discovered that it was my former boss, the head of Campo Station who is now deceased, that was smuggling drugs through the East County, I was met with opposition. I had enough and left. Disgusted with the legal system and the federal government, I left the law field completely.
It is through being a prosecution and intel agent that I can speak to these executive orders. I don’t claim to represent the USBP, only myself and my own experiences.
Trump's immigration order is dangerous
The executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” orders the arrest of any immigrant, documented or not, that has either “been convicted of any criminal offense…, has been charged with any criminal offense…, who has committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense…” or “in the judgement of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Trump intends to basically deputize all police, local, state and federal as immigration officers. Notice how it says “any criminal offense.” For legal residents, known as LAPR’s or greencard holders, past law dictated the crime had to be a serious one such as murder, rape, drugs and crimes of moral turpitude. This executive order means they can now be deported for any criminal offense no matter how slight, and they don’t have to be convicted of said offense. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be an offense. The last quote allows immigration officers to arrest and deport solely based on their opinion. Therefore, due process is no longer a right of any immigrant.
The second executive order signed by Trump on January 25th was titled the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” This basically orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to allocate any and all funds to arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants. It also bans the “catch and release” or as it is referred to in immigration as “voluntary returns” or “VRs.” This concept has been used by the BP since before I entered in ’95. Basically, the idea was that with thousands of undocumented immigrants entering without inspection (8 USC 1325), there was no feasible way to detain them all and formally deport them. This VR was only used for Mexico and allowed the immigrants to sign away their right to a hearing via an I-213 form. They could then return to Mexico and try again within hours. The main point was that it was a benefit to the US government since they had neither the money nor the space to detain so many people. But now Trump is ordering that every person crossing the border without inspection will be formally deported, a civil offense. If they return, they will be charged with Re-Entry After Deportation (8 USC 1326) which is a criminal offense punishable by two to five years.
Follow the money
Of course this is actually about racism and money. Luckily for the private prison system, Trump has agreed to give them contracts again. The GEO Group, Inc. and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) maintain 85% of US prisons. The GEO Group alone gave the Trump campaign over $250,000, Mike Pence received at least $10,000 and countless other Republican leaders got thousands as well. In fact, both companies’ stock soared with the election of Trump. It is estimated that The GEO Group’s stock will climb by 25% this year.1
Additionally, CoreCivic spent over $1.6 million in 2016 to lobby Republican congress members in regards to using private prisons for immigration detention facilities. The GEO Group spent over $800,000 in 2016. They specifically lobbied Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, to the tune of $120,000.
Owners of The GEO Group and CoreCivic stock include The Vanguard Group, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup to name a few. I can only wonder who else in the Republican Party owns stock in these companies.
So what does all this mean? Trump/Bannon are making it difficult to be an immigrant in this country of immigrants. All immigrants, documented or not will be subject to deportation. They will be arrested and placed into private prisons run by The GEO Group or CoreCivic, awaiting their hearings, deported to their countries of origin. Others will be held for years simply for trying a second time to enter the US without inspection, a civil offense as I stated.
The GEO Group and CoreCivic will be paid millions if not billions of our tax dollars via the Trump Administration. Trump will insist he’s keeping America safe when in reality he is tearing families apart, destroying our economy that relies on immigrant workers and business owners and creating an endless supply of clientele for private prisons.
The administration has already begun advertising for new BP agents on television and radio. The media has not caught on and has no idea. Soon immigrants across the country will hear a forceful knock on their door.
I only have one question to ask you.
Are we going to let him get away with this?
Crossposted at The Liberal Yell