Trump and the Law of Unintended Consequences


As Trump enters his second month in office it has become very apparent that he intends on fulfilling the promises he made during his campaign to “crack down” on illegal immigration. His recent executive orders barring immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries has been front page news for the past month.

What has been somewhat overlooked in all this are the memos released last month from the White House in which Trump requests a larger enforcement force in order to speed up the removal of millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States. One of the big questions is how he plans on carrying this out. There simply are not enough Federal agents to carry out investigations and arrests on the mass scale that he is calling for. The White House seems to believe that the solution may lie in involving local law enforcement agencies in these efforts to enforce immigration laws. Traditionally, there has been a bright line between the powers of Federal immigration authorities and the local police and sheriff departments. Trump has proposed “deputizing” local law enforcement to assist in enforcing Federal immigration policies.

Critics of this proposal have rightly pointed out the many problems associated with such an approach. Police chiefs around the country have emphasized that the most effective and powerful tool available to law enforcement officers is their connections within the communities they are charged with protecting. The police cannot be everywhere at all times, and intelligence gathered from the street and cooperating parties is absolutely vital to helping solve crimes. Even more disturbing is the potential chilling affect such an approach could have on undocumented aliens who are the victims of crime or in need of help. It is easy to imagine a situation where a woman who has been physically abused or a child in need of medical help may hesitate to call 911 or reach out to the police if they think there is a possibility that they or their family members could be arrested and placed into deportation proceedings.

As with most things in life, complicated questions require complicated answers. The current administration should think long and hard before rushing into action with enforcement policies that could very well drive a wedge between local law enforcement and the communities they have been sworn to protect.