The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced the termination of the short-lived Schedule Departure program that offered illegal immigrants with outstanding orders of removal the opportunity to turn themselves in.
In exchange for voluntary compliance, ICE had offered these forthcoming individuals the opportunity to wind down their affairs in the U.S. without the risk of an ICE fugitive operations team showing up unannounced to detain them. The program was issued in response to the fact that over the last 20 years, when the last amnesty was issued, over 600,000 individuals have had their “due process” before immigration judges, the board of appeal, and/or federal courts, but decided when they were ordered deported, that all bets on due process were off.
In response, ICE has implemented an increasingly successful fugitive operations program. Apparently it is too successful, as it has become the target of criticism from some segments of the public and members of Congress that its fugitive operations program was disrupting and frightening immigrant communities at large.
In response to the criticisms for being too successful, ICE was compelled to offer the Scheduled Departure program — in essence extending a fig leaf to the thousands of fugitive aliens to voluntarily present themselves for deportation and avoid the potentially uncomfortable prospects of being arrested suddenly at home one morning.
Was it surprising that less than 10 fugitives accepted this fig leaf offering? No. It would be hard to believe that at this time such a voluntary program would result in large participation from a fugitive alien community benefitting from a large playing field in which to hide.
More interesting is the fact that the offer, in essence, called the pro-fugitive alien population’s bluff. Would they agree that fugitives should comply with deportation orders if offered “humane” conditions to comply? Apparently not.
Based on the results of the Scheduled Departure program, “humane conditions of compliance” for the majority evidently means not complying at all.
The grand ridicule of the program by fugitive alien advocates reflected the offense being taken for presenting a voluntary program that otherwise offered no incentive to comply. Was this response unexpected? Again the answer is no.
Why did this program — and the concept of an honor system when it comes to deportation — fail? The underpinning is the established view by the fugitive population and its supporters that judicial orders of deportation are really not “final” decisions in the immigration game, but just part of a complicated process of prolonging one’s illegal stay in the United States.
I reiterate that fugitive aliens are individuals who took full advantage of due process and would have been the first to hug and embrace it if “due process” resulted in them obtaining legal status. ICE offered the opportunity to fulfill “due process” by participating in the execution of their judicial order of removal. This would make sense if everyone respected judicial orders and due process 100% of the time, but this is not the case in immigration. Why?
The problem and the solution lies with Congress and the immigration laws it for some reason continues to embrace as workable. Currently, our immigration laws provide absolutely no incentive for an alien to voluntary comply with an order of removal.
Further compounding this disincentive to comply is the fact that the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants are economic migrants wishing to earn higher wages to send money home to feed their children and families. The economic incentive is to not comply — and to continue working for U.S. wages for as long as possible while one of ICE’ fugitive operations teams attempts to find the equivalent of a needle in the United States haystack.
The longer one remains in the U.S. and works, even as a fugitive, the more that individual’s loved ones will benefit. But wait, there’s more. The longer a fugitive earns wages, the more funds they earn to pay-off their smuggler’s fees – saving themselves and their family from physical pain on collection date.
So, the system as created by our immigration laws is cooked to encourage absconding. Thus, the basis of why any immigration honor system for deportees, including the Scheduled Departure program, will fail in the United States.
To show how perverted our laws are, let us examine a true hypothetical – where a non-detained individual ordered deported actually complies. That individual would get deported at government expense and would be subject to a 10-year bar to re-entry into the United States. If they wish to re-enter the United States within 10 years, they would have to seek a “waiver.” Some will get it, others will not. Meanwhile they are back home, often in a poor region, wondering how long their savings from the United States will last and how they will continue to be able to feed their children, provide medical care, and send them to school – if the kids are not working themselves.
What happens to who abscond and are caught 7 years later by a fugitive operations team costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars to operate? Exactly the same thing as the honest deportee, except that the dishonest fugitive was able to work for 7 more years in the United States and send remittances to his family during this period.
Mr. fugitive feels better because he has a larger nest egg at home to take care of his family. Making it sweeter for Mr. Fugitive, he too can seek a waiver for his 10-year bar. Some will get it while others will not.
It does not take a shrewd attorney or fugitive to do the math and figure out which curtain offers the best prize. Can anyone really criticize Mr. Fugitive for his decision, aside from his lack of respect for our concepts of due process and legal compliance? I personally believe that if the honest deportee passes a head examination, they should be rewarded with either a waiver or citizenship for being one of the very few honest deportees who respects our concept of fair play. At least give him a waiver for any civic exam in the immigration process.
The government and the public, as with many issued in immigration, have struggled with this issue over the last 20 years. To the credit of Congress, much needed fugitive resources were provided to ICE after 9/11. To ICE’s credit, they have caused a dramatic shift in the fugitive alien arena with fugitive operations making it clear that any day as a fugitive alien could be your last day in America.
Those that believe due process is served only when the alien is granted status will continue to criticize ICE for its efforts. Even the most humane and gentle fugitive operations, or programs like Scheduled Departure, will continue to be criticized.
And non-detained aliens ordered deported will continue to run and hide across the United States to help their loved ones in their home country and keep smuggler debt collectors off their back.
Even more certain is that all of this will continue as long as Congress fails to create some incentives for being an honest deportee and greater disincentives for flouting our laws and absconding.
Interestingly, ICE’ fundamental goal to create disincentives to absconding and its critics complaint of the lack of incentives in Scheduled Departure are not diametrically opposed – both views highlight key component to the solution to our fugitive woes. Perhaps the Scheduled Departure program as a case study to promote a Congressional solution was not so bad after all.