Last weekend, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, in what it described as a “routine” action, arrested and detained several hundred illegal aliens across the country. Forty-one such people were arrested in New York City. Advocates for the “undocumented” met the news with despair and anger. “Now it seems like anyone could be arrested,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. She added that ICE will “facilitate racial profiling by local law enforcement.” Deborah Axt of Make the Road New York spoke of the “agency’s effort to cast immigrants as criminals.” “Shame on ICE for putting New York’s immigrant communities—four million strong—in a state of panic,” said Steven Choi of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Left-wing politicians also voiced outrage. Democratic New York State senator Jesse Hamilton called for the New York Police Department to stop arresting people for low-level offenses—a practice, he says, that “puts immigrants in danger under the Trump administration. Every arrest produces fingerprints that are sent to federal law enforcement officials.” Among the “activities . . . often used to police black & brown bodies” that Hamilton wants decriminalized are disorderly conduct, trespassing, marijuana possession, and disturbing the peace.

Other New York City elected officials used the raids to make a broader point. “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” shouted New York City Council members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin at a rally in Tompkins Square Park. City councilmember Carlos Menchaca posted on Facebook that the Palestine/Mexico refrain is his “fave new chant.”

City comptroller Scott Stringer posted a picture on Twitter of thousands of Yemeni protestors—all men—bowing in orderly ranks as they performed their evening devotions in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall. “This is what our city and America is all about,” commented Stringer. One could easily say that mixing religious observance with political speech, while taking over a public square in front of a municipal building in order to perform a mass act of prostration to a divinity, is precisely what America is not about. Stringer also strangely posted a picture of a massive Palestinian flag, fluttering above the assembled crowd, as another example of what “America is all about.”

In virtually any other country, the deportation of aliens who have overstayed their visas or who are working in the underground economy might merit a brief mention in the newspaper. Deporting aliens who have committed serious crimes is understood in most nations to be a necessary duty of the state, like sanitation or the licensing of medical professionals. Nobody thinks twice about deporting criminals in these countries, and immigration enforcement is an uncontroversial aspect of national life. 

Canada—often cited by progressives as a model of civilized multiculturalism—deports aliens at almost twice the rate that the U.S. does. Between 2006 and 2014, Canadian immigration authorities deported, on average, 35 people per day, or about 13,000 annually. The United States, with nine times the population of Canada, removed about 65,000 illegal aliens from within the borders of the country in 2016. Unofficially, Canada removes refugee applicants by paying them to withdraw their petitions and return to their countries of origin. Since 2012, thousands of Hungarian Roma have been offered one-way airfare to Budapest and $2,000 (Canadian) in “reintegration assistance” in exchange for leaving Canada voluntarily. 

Australia deports 10,000 people annually, giving it one of the highest rates of deportation in the world. Australia also has a firm policy, originally called the “Pacific Solution,” of intercepting illegal boat migrants and processing them offshore, thus denying them any claims to refugee or asylum status they might obtain by reaching the Australian mainland. The migrants get sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru to live in dismal detention camps, with no hope of ever going to Australia. The miserable nature of their existence is then advertised in countries such as Afghanistan to deter further migration.

Under the Obama administration, ICE oriented its pursuit of illegal aliens toward those with criminal records, and the agency performed periodic “sweeps” to apprehend the worst offenders. At the same time, the United States effectively opened the doors to unauthorized migration, a policy bound to ensure that such actions would continue to be necessary. The indignation of activists and progressive politicians about the enforcement of our immigration laws is perhaps predictable, but acquainting themselves with global norms regarding legal migration and deportation might help keep their blood pressure under control.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next