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According to an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by the Washington Post, Donald Trump is assembling his immigration enforcement infrastructure – and it sure looks like a mass deportation force. The assessment found 33,000 detention beds where future detainees could be held, looked into ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in order to speed up some Customs and Border Protection hires, and revealed that CBP is moving forward with the construction of a border wall prototype. In addition to the pain and suffering Trump’s hate for immigrants will inflict, there are at least three major things to be concerned about here:
As the assessment itself is aware, it’s not clear where the money for any of this enforcement would come from. In Trump’s March budget blueprint, he suggested cuts to transportation, health and human services, housing, education, international relations, and the environment – and it seems clear that Trump’s preference involves spending that money to deport mothers and fathers who hold together American families, contribute to the economy, and pay taxes.
Democratic leaders, for their part, have vowed to reject funding requests that allocate money for a deportation force. The one Trump wants would be expensive: he’s called for CBP to hire 5,000 new agents and ICE to hire 10,000 – but the DHS assessment said the cost of hiring just 500 agents would reach $100 million.
Hiring that many CBP and ICE agents would be hard – DHS Secretary John Kelly himself has said that “we’re not going to get 10,000 and 5,000 on board within the next couple of years.” Worryingly, DHS wants to speed that process up by curtailing the extensive testing process potential hires must go through – an idea which former head of internal affairs at CBP James Tomsheck once called “beyond my comprehension.” The tests, which include a polygraph exam which 2 out of 3 applicants fail, weed out applicants who have criminal backgrounds and members of drug cartels who want to infiltrate as spies.
Moreover, ICE and CBP have in the past repeatedly been criticized for their lack of transparency and accountability: Politico once called Border Patrol “America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency” and the Texas Observer has written about how multiple other agencies have had to investigate CBP officers. In 2013, a teenager died after Border Patrol told him to drink liquid meth, and the agents involved still work for CBP. A 2014 independent review found that agents would deliberately step in the path of cars to justify shooting at the drivers. CBP has shot and killed children for throwing rocks and been accused of sexually assaulting minors who cross the border. Immigrants have died in custody after being tased, assaulted, or neglected, and few from ICE or CBP have been held responsible. Yet for some reason, these are the agencies Donald Trump wants to give less scrutiny to.
The interesting thing is, we’ve seen this kind of obsession with immigration enforcement before, where an elected official believed that immigrants were everything that was wrong with the country and prioritized his actions accordingly. Sheriff Joe Arpaio – whom of course, Donald Trump loves – spent a near quarter-century crusading against immigrants, racking up more than $142 million in lawsuits and legal expenses along the way. He steamrolled right over the rights of immigrants and people of color, and – like Trump – believed himself to be above the law. And during his tenure, everything else besides immigration enforcement in his county withered from neglect: 40,000 felony warrants went un-served, detention conditions violated the Constitution, violate crime rates rose in Arpaio’s jurisdiction even as they fell in the rest of the state, millions in taxpayer funds were diverted and misspent, and over 400 sex crime cases were ignored and not investigated. Arpaio is about to face criminal proceedings for contempt of court charges relating to his refusal to stop persecuting Arizonans of color – and Trump seems interested in mirroring Arpaio’s anti-immigrant obsession and hate on a national scale.