When a nation is faced with the existence of millions of undocumented immigrants within its borders, the most realistic response is to acknowledge the intractability of the situation (and the impossibility of obtaining an ideal solution) and focus its resources on making the best of a bad situation. Exciting among the public expectations that an ideal solution is feasible is disingenuous and demagogic.
The demand that they all be summarily rounded up and deported is not feasible. That solution will:
A) Necessitate the co-optation of local law enforcement agencies by the
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B) Be very costly financially
C) Inevitably result in violations of constitutional rights of American citizens who are inadvertently caught up in the dragnet.
It will be a logistical nightmare with unintended negative consequences.
The rounding up, detention, processing and deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants is a labor intensive undertaking. Absent the use of the military, the federal government simply does not have that level of manpower. There is also the issue of where to hold these detainees between the time they are taken into custody, processed and then deported.
There is in the U.S. no national police force. The bulk of general law enforcement in the United Sates is carried out by local law enforcement agencies; city and county police departments, sheriff’s deputies and state police agencies. These agencies will, of necessity, be required to redirect their criminal law enforcement efforts to effectuate a mass deportation of millions of people. As a result, their usual public safety functions will have to be subordinated to the federal demands.
Local law enforcement agencies already handle criminal cases involving both undocumented immigrants and citizens. The mandates of a mass deportation will reorder the public safety priorities that local government officials have set. Police chiefs, sheriffs and members of councils have established public safety priorities and routines based upon community needs and what they can afford. Given the choice between having local law enforcement officers devote their time to criminal law enforcement or to the mandates of a mass deportation effort via civil immigration enforcement, the former is the more critical use of public safety resources and of an officer’s time on duty.
There is good reason for local governments to vigorously oppose such a mass deportation. Any such effort would essentially be an unfunded mandate on local government. Whether one agrees or not that local law enforcement agencies should take on responsibilities that are traditionally the province of federal immigration agencies, once local governments are compelled to assume that responsibility, there will inevitably be a fiscal impact on them and a reorientation of service delivery priorities.
Even if there were to be federal funds appropriated as aid to local jurisdictions, if past experience is any example, that funding will lag and in the end be insufficient to cover local government costs.
It is a credible argument to warn that the proposed mass roundup and deportation of the undocumented will net not just undocumented immigrants but law-abiding citizens as well. That will likely result in some rights violations, which could well result in some judgments of liability against individuals and jurisdictions. That would result in some measure of public expenditure.
Subjecting local governments to the potential liability of mass deportation efforts is irresponsible and will force them to do something their better judgment, fiscal concerns and preferred policy options would be against. Therefore, the federal government should fully indemnify local officials and agencies against legal challenges that may arise out of their enforcement of a mass deportation effort.
The writer lives in Conway and is a teaching associate at Coastal Carolina University and a former member of Conway City Council.