Even before Friday’s blur over whether the Trump administration is considering deploying National Guard troops as a deportation force — which the White House denied — confusion surrounded the matter of immigration enforcement.
Certainly recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and roundups in the region prompted anxiety among those working and living in the U.S. illegally and their communities.
But it wasn’t even clear whether the raids stemmed from a continuation of Obama administration policies or Trump’s claim that he’s fulfilling a get-tough campaign pledge.
As president, Barack Obama authorized more deportations than any of his predecessors, with the estimated total pegged at 2.5 million — earning him the nickname “deporter-in-chief” among immigrant advocates.
Still, Trump tweeted on Feb. 12: “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”
During the campaign, he talked about creating deportation forces, then he moved away from that.
Now it is almost as if Trump and immigration advocates have a mutual interest in giving the impression that an unprecedented roundup looms.
Nearly a month ago, Meghan Maloney of the New York Immigration Project told the Buffalo News: “The Border Patrol has traditionally picked up people and created a climate of fear for even those who have papers. . . . In this current climate, that fear is much more palpable.”
But the conservative National Review published an article last week with a headline proclaiming “nothing new” in the president’s deportation policy.
“Illegal immigrants in the United States have long dealt with the fear that ICE officers would be knocking at their door,” it said. “In fiscal year 2012, for example, ICE removed over 400,000 illegal aliens, a number that was high enough to prompt frenzied anti-deportation rhetoric.”
The Department of Homeland Security did prepare an 11-page draft memo, described by The Associated Press, proposing a mobilization of the National Guard in immigration enforcement around the nation.
The question is how seriously to take that document now that Trump spokesman Sean Spicer denied the story.
Clearly the administration as a whole is declining to share whatever plans it has — ensuring the confusion isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon.