Fri | Nov 17, 2017

Ronald Mason | Mass deportation - are we ready?

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the Republic of the USA. One of the principal planks of the election campaign was on undocumented immigrants.

The analysis of the potential impact should there be mass deportation is just really beginning. Bloomberg Media is a respected outlet around the world and is relied on in places of influence, including the opinions of Francis Wilkinson, who writes editorials on politics and US domestic policy for Bloomberg View.

The Jamaican society is aware of the large number of its immigrants in the USA. However, I do not think we appreciate the large number of undocumented Jamaican immigrants. I have been exposed to reports indicating there are more than 600,000 such persons. We should begin to give thought to the resettlement of our countrymen in the event of large-scale deportation.

Read 'Undocumented immigrants' hopes may rest on Melania'/Bloomberg:

"'Speaker Paul Ryan said last weekend that there will be no deportation force rounding up undocumented immigrants. President-elect Trump, Ryan's new boss, said he will deport two million or three million undocumented immigrants. Both may be right.

 

KEY IMMIGRATION ADVISER

 

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who called the League of "Women Voters "communist" for trying to thwart his voter-suppression efforts, is a key immigration policy adviser to Trump. He told the Los Angeles Times last week: 'There is vast potential to increase the level of deportations without adding personnel.'

"With a change of policy, each of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US would become instantly vulnerable to deportation. To enact those policies, all Trump has to do is rescind Barack Obama's less aggressive ones. Ryan wouldn't have to lift a legislative finger to realise Kobach's 'vast potential'.

"Trump has repeatedly said he would target criminals. But that's the current policy of the Obama administration. The president-elect is unlikely to hew to the status quo after making promises in his campaign to be dramatically more aggressive.

"A big question is how fast Trump intends to remove two million to three million people - and from where. In Obama's first day, when he was trying to create the political space for Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform, he deported more than 360,000 undocumented immigrants per year, with a peak of more than 400,000 in 2012. However, most of those removed were not long-time residents. The peak number of deportations from the nation's interior, as opposed to those apprehended near the border, was 188,000 in 2011.

"In Obama's second term, deportations declined, especially after the restrictionist wing of the GOP killed reform in 2014. The nature of deportees shifted as well, with criminals, who the Obama administration prioritised, becoming a larger share in his second term. Settled, non-criminal immigrants gained a measure of security.

Even without public resistance, legally deporting two million over the course of Trump's first term might be difficult. The Pew Research Center estimates that the number of undocumented immigrants in the US declined after the recession and has since stabilised at about 11 million.

Most have been in the US for more than a decade. They are less likely to be transients 'living in the shadows' than fixtures living in the open. If Trump pursues large numbers of immigrants in the interior, he will find them - at home, at work, in school. Many would put up a legal fight.

In part because the Obama administration has already removed so many, there are unlikely to be two million undocumented criminals remaining, let alone three million. The Migration Policy Center estimates that about 820,000, or seven per cent, of undocumented immigrants have criminal records. About 300,000 are felons.

Rescinding Obama's executive policies, including his deferred action for more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the USA as children, whose personal data are now in the hands of a government soon to be administered by Trump, will ratchet up pressure on undocumented families.

 

TORN APART

 

Especially if Trump dramatically increases deportations in settled communities, some may begin plotting a departure. Others, including both citizens and undocumented members, will be torn apart. According to the Migration Policy Institute, about one-third of these parents have an American citizen child. Other undocumented immigrants, with or without children are married to legal residents.

A persistent state of fear, leading to self-deportation, has been a goal of GOP immigration restrictionists for some time."

Currently, Jamaica has major challenges with crime, housing, health care and education. It would not surprise that should the deportations begin in earnest, expatriate Jamaicans will be forced home in numbers by thousands or tens of thousands.

As at now, USA deports approximately 20,000 per year and this number is inclusive of those denied admission at the ports of entry.

Two hundred thousand non-tourism arrivals at the Norman Manley airport in a short period of time is frightening. Are we ready? Have we begun to plan for this?

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.