NEW YORK: And so it begins – deportation of the estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the United States, ordered by the Trump administration, on Tuesday. Here’s the magnitude and immensity of the task: in 105 years between 1892 and 1997, the US deported 2.1 million people. Under President George W. Bush, over 2 million people were deported. Under President Barack Obama, more than 2.7 million immigrants were removed, with the record year being 2012, which saw 409,849 removals.
The humungous enforcement drive will target illegal immigrants across the nation, sparing only the 750,000 odd ‘Dreamers’ – foreign-born children of illegal immigrants who came when they were young, grew up here, according to official guidelines released by the Department of Homeland Security. Illegal immigrants with a criminal record, and even those who have availed of any public benefits, like free lunches for children in schools, would be priority for removal.
To get the job done, the administration will hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 more Customs and Border Protection agents. The drastic move needs the backing of the Republican-controlled Congress, a public comment period and negotiations with other nations – especially removing illegal immigrants from Central America to Mexico. With a Republic-controlled Congress, it’s sure to go through.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are around 500,000 illegal immigrants from India in the US, as of 2014. That number would be more now, as a separate statistic reveals that 14,000 of the 800,800 Indians who arrived on a visitor or business visa in 2015, didn’t head back home. In fact, the number of illegal immigrants India was growing faster than any other country, even Mexico. In 2014, there were 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the US, which was down from 6.4 million in 2009.
Of the total 3.2 million residents of Indian-origin in the US – a total of 45 million in the US are foreign-born residents – 2.7 million immigrants are from India; a number which is only behind Mexico and China, and closely followed by the Philippines.
One needs to look at only the Chinese community to know what can happen when an immigration drive is targeted at a particular community, and what the future portends for Mexicans, in particular. In 1880, Chinese immigrants were the largest foreign-born group in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada. That all ended though with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. By the 1930s, Italians were the largest immigrant group in the nation and in 9 states, including New York, Louisiana, New Jersey and Nevada. After the immigration floodgates opened in 1965, by the 1980s Mexicans became the nation’s largest immigrant group; and it kept swelling: by 2013, they were the largest immigrant group in 33 states.
Today, Chinese immigrants are the largest immigrant group in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Indians are the largest immigrant group in New Jersey. Filipinos are the largest immigrant group in Alaska and Hawaii, according to statistics from DHS. Six states account for 59% of unauthorized immigrants in 2014: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
The US have had severe deportation policies in place over the years. Secure Communities was one of them. Created in 2008, and which lasted till 2014, it was an information-sharing program between DHS and the Department of Justice, and relied upon local enforcement officials to use biometric data to screen for illegal immigrants. After 2014, the program was replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program, which prioritized “threats to national security, public safety, and border security.” Now, that’s been replaced by new directives from the White House.
I’m against illegal immigration. Taxpayers fund the public and welfare system misused by illegal immigrants. The welfare system gets often overburdened across the nation, legal residents suffer.
However, I also got to see some years ago on a journalism fellowship, on a sponsored trip to White Plains, New York, how that city made itself immune to the Secure Communities program by helping illegal immigrants to come out in the open fearlessly, gather at meets where police and city officials were present. Illegal immigrants felt secure in that environment. Officials and cops assured me that the city was thriving, a safe place, crime was down.
Now, as the deportation drive begins, there will be terrible partition of families.
Parents are going to be separated from their children, spouses from each other. As night raids intensify, neighbors will hear the wailing of women and children. Wealthy neighborhoods will suddenly scramble to get new workers to tend their lawns, swimming pools and properties. Small businesses, farming, construction, restaurants will be adversely affected with a paucity of workers.
I wonder how those residents in White Plains feel now. Are they going to sleep tonight?
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)