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The National Security and Public Safety Toll of Zero Tolerance and Indiscriminate Deportations

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While the Trump administration pursues zero tolerance policies at the border and indiscriminate deportations throughout the country, observers are highlighting the toll on public safety, national security and effective law enforcement due to the administration’s policies and plans:

Texas Observer, “ICE Criminal Investigators Ask to Be Distanced from Detentions, Deportations in Letter to Kirstjen Nielsen”:

Nearly 20 ICE regional supervisors say the agency’s controversial detention and deportation policies have made it hard for them to conduct investigations into threats to national security.

…A majority of ICE’s top criminal investigation agents are asking Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to spin their division off from the agency. In a letter sent last week, 19 special agents in charge at ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit said that ICE’s controversial detention and deportation policies have made it hard for them to conduct investigations into threats to national security, organized crime, narcotics smuggling and human trafficking.

…They also wrote that “the perception of HSI’s investigative independence is unnecessarily impacted by the political nature” of ICE’s immigration enforcement. “Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with HSI because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration.”

Bloomberg column by Al Hunt, “Trump’s Cruelty Is Actually Good News for Criminals”:

Democrats should reject Trump’s false narrative and point out that his policy not only has been inhumane and ineffective, but is likely to be a bonanza for gangs and drug dealers. That’s because a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry doesn’t prioritize going after the bad guys.

“The beneficiaries of Trump’s policy are drug smugglers, coyotes and gang members,” said John Sandweg, who was acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Barack Obama. “We’re burning our resources on families.”

Previous administrations generally focused their immigration enforcement on criminals and drug dealers. An email surfaced last week from a San Diego Justice Department supervisor warning that the increased load of family cases diverts resources from fighting drug smuggling. The same can be said of the Trump administration’s deportation policies, which cast a wide net instead of focusing on hardened criminals.

San Diego Union Tribune, “Feds taking more drug cases to state court in wake of zero tolerance mandate”

The District Attorney’s Office said the number of border bust drug cases it has filed in local courts more than doubled from the same period last year … The increase is driven by the emphasis on prosecuting all immigration violators in federal court — a policy that is soaking up time and attention of federal authorities, leading to more drug cases spilling over to the state court system.

“It has definitely increased the number of cases my lawyers are handling,” [Mel Epley, chief of the South Bay branch office of the Public Defender’s Office] said. “What we were told is the feds need to concentrate on the illegal entry cases, and that’s why the state is going to have to pick up the slack on this … They’re making offers that are really hefty and our clients aren’t ready to take them … It’s definitely locking up the system.”

The Hill, “Police chiefs group opposes Trump policy detaining immigrant families”

Dozens of law enforcement officials from both parties wrote an open letter to top lawmakers on Wednesday urging them to adopt alternatives to the Trump administration’s policy of detaining immigrant families. Forty-eight current and former police chiefs and sheriffs, all members of the pro-immigration Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF), signed the letter against the policy detaining immigrant families.

The officials wrote that while they were encouraged by President Trump’s order ending the policy of separating immigrant families at the border, they “do not believe that across-the-board family detention is the solution to family separation … Most families do not pose a threat to the community at large and, accordingly, our juvenile detention system is designed around keeping the family together,” the letter reads.

According to Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch:

When police chiefs, prosecutors, and even ICE officers are telling Trump that his indiscriminate policy to target everyone equally endangers national security and public safety, he should listen. Going after low level immigration offenders with the same vigor as high level violent criminals has the dangerous effect of putting violent criminals on the same level as low level immigration matters, all to the detriment of our national security and public safety. Even with Congress’ repeated and robust DHS appropriations, there are only so many resources. The federal government should not be relying on states to prosecute dangerous and violent crime, because Trump insists on using limited resources to go after parents and kids seeking asylum. Furthermore, with every irrational attack on immigrants and asylum seekers, DHS loses its credibility and trust with rational law enforcers across the nation.