A New Paradigm for Humane and Effective Immigration Enforcement

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

In recent decades, detention and deportation have become the entirety of America’s immigration enforcement strategy. This will strike many, perhaps even most, Americans as both intuitive and inevitable. How else is the nation to enforce its immigration laws? But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) mass detention and deportation strategy is, in fact, both a sharp break from historic norms and neither the only, nor the most effective, way to enforce immigration law. As a result of ICE’s unprecedented mass deportation agenda, the United States now spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all federal criminal law enforcement combined,1 and has removed more than twice as many people in the first two decades of the 21st century as in the entire previous history of the United States.2 The brutality and enormous investment in immigration enforcement have created a well-documented humanitarian disaster3 that has increasingly driven the American public to reject ICE’s heavy-handed tactics.4 However, less well-recognized are the ways in which that agency’s enforcement-only approach has utterly failed as a law enforcement strategy.

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