The Biden administration’s massive increase in illegal immigration necessitates that Congress provide a commensurate increase in deportation-related resources for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
As a former top official at ICE, I can confirm what most people already know: The agency tasked with deporting illegal aliens was overburdened even before President Joe Biden opened the borders and it is in need of a significant increase in deportation officers, special agents, prosecuting attorneys, detention beds and stronger enforcement tools.
The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Jennie Taer recently asked the House Republican Conference whether they had a plan for interior enforcement but the response was entirely focused on the border. Obviously, border security is critical, but countless illegal aliens with phony asylum claims have already been allowed into the country and will be ordered removed.
A secure border will have no effect on them or the millions of other deportable aliens.
Strong interior enforcement, such as robust deportations and worksite operations, fortifies border security. There’s no reason to sneak past the Border Patrol if there’s no benefit to living here illegally. But with sanctuary policies, unlawful employment running rampant, and only so many ICE officers to carry out enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, millions of foreign nationals have calculated that concocting a phony asylum claim or overstaying a visa is a worthwhile endeavor. Congress needs to change that calculation.
For starters, Congress must fund at least 10,000 new ICE officers and additional support staff. Hiring and training will take time, and the country can’t wait until the next administration to start that process.
Many officers will be retiring over the next few years, and many have been relocated to process aliens at the borders; officers inside ICE tell me that the Biden administration is doing nothing to backfill those positions. In fact, the administration is seeking less money for ICE’s enforcement division in its latest budget.
Congress must significantly increase available detention space and require ICE to fill the beds. The Biden administration is using only around 17,000 beds and has closed detention centers. Assuming there ends up being 15 million illegal aliens in the U.S., if ICE were to run 150,000 detention beds, that would represent only 1% of the removable population.
In recent years, Congress has spent time bickering over whether ICE should run 25,000 or 35,000 beds instead of building up an honest response to mass illegality.
Congress must also strengthen enforcement tools. For example, use of Expedited Removal (i.e., quick deportation without an immigration judge’s involvement) should not be limited to aliens who have been in the country less than two years; the Biden administration has significantly limited its application even further.
Congress should consider making many violations of immigration law a criminal offense such as overstaying a visa or violating the terms of release under the Alternatives to Detention program, and also put a lifetime reentry bar on all deported aliens.
Congress should make drunk driving an aggravated felony under immigration law since it’s a serious public safety threat that illegal aliens commit at an alarming rate; there were over 291,607 DUI offenses on the records of aliens ICE arrested in Fiscal Years 2017–2020.
Congress should mandate the levying of fines on aliens who ignore court orders to go home; the Biden administration has prohibited ICE from using fines already in law. And of course, Congress must outlaw sanctuary policies.
There are plenty more improvements Congress must make if the rule of law is to mean something. Immigration law exists for many reasons and voters are not happy to see Congress talking about amnesty and increasing foreign workers instead of contemplating the demands illegal immigration puts on social services, schools, housing, wages, and other sectors of our society.
At some point in the not too distant future, the executive branch will be run by an administration that supports America’s sovereignty and the rule of law, once again. It will need a dramatic increase in resources to address the dramatic increase in illegal immigration welcomed by the Biden administration.
That building up of resources must start immediately.
Jon Feere was the Chief of Staff at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump administration and is now the Director of Investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies. For more, visit www.cis.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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