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The fundamental problem with Trump’s immigration enforcement crackdown

On immigration enforcement, Trump kept a campaign promise. But it’s about to get tougher.

Photo by Icon Sportswire/Contributor/Getty Images

During President Donald Trump’s first 12 weeks in office, he’s struggled to deliver on many of his campaign promises — but just as he said he would, he’s making enforcement of immigration law much harsher.

On this episode of The Weeds, Matt Yglesias and Sarah Kliff are joined by Vox immigration reporter Dara Lind to talk through the changes the Trump administration has already made to immigration policy and what developments we can expect in the near future. They also discuss the United Airlines fiasco and a new NBER working paper about the impact of New York City’s universal prekindergarten program on the health of low-income children.

You can listen to the episode here, or subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. Also, be sure to get tickets for the Weeds live taping on April 18, and join the new official Facebook group for Weeds fans.

Here’s Dara explaining a major problem with Trump’s pledge to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, and how Trump could get around that:

DARA: The fundamental problem with removing 11 million unauthorized people from the country is immigration courts have a massive backlog. If you have not previously been deported from the US, and you aren’t caught within a certain distance from the border — or you are caught within that distance but you’ve been living here for several years — you have the right to an immigration court hearing before you’re deported. And that means that over the last several years, because Congress realized it wanted to put a lot more funding toward immigration enforcement, it put it toward DHS [Department of Homeland Security]. It didn’t put it toward DOJ [Department of Justice], where the immigration courts were.

So, over the entire Obama administration, the court backlog went from a year, a year and a half, to two and a half years.

MATT: So if you nab a longtime resident in Chicago—

DARA: Right, that’s two and a half years where they’re going to be out in the community, where in theory they could abscond and not show up for their hearings. Or that’s two and a half years that you have to keep them in detention, which gets extremely expensive, even if you’re cutting costs by putting them in private facilities…

One of the ways you could root around it is by expanding the exception — the “Oh, you’re not entitled to an immigration court hearing.” And there should be regulations coming down soon about that. Some people are worried that it’s going to allow anyone who gets caught anywhere in the US to, if they can’t prove they’ve been here for a couple of years, to get deported without a hearing. We don’t know for sure that’s what’s going to happen, but that’s the rumor that’s been going around.

Another way to get around it is to use federal criminal court, which is not as backlogged as immigration courts generally, and charge and convict you of a crime. And once you’ve been convicted of a crime, it is much more easy to ship you through immigration court in a jail or prison and deport you.

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