$500,000 to Protect Convicted Immigrants?

On Monday, Jan. 23, the D.C. government began allocating $500,000 of taxpayer money for lawyers to prevent immigrants convicted of serious felonies from being legally deported. The special fund also can be used to help convicted criminal immigrants with green cards defy deportation orders by obtaining citizenship (making them no longer at risk of deportation). 
While D.C. officials may believe the fund will also defend non-criminals who fear deportation, the fact is that the only immigrants facing immediate orders of removal are convicted felons.

The timing of the $500,000 fund suggests it was driven by overreaction to two possible changes in federal immigration policy by the Trump administration: (1) the ending of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Obama’s executive order giving a temporary two-year waiver from deportation to the so-called DREAMers — millennials aged 18 to 32 who came into the country illegally before the age of 15, and (2) President Trump’s promise to expand, expedite and give top priority to the deportation of convicted criminal felons.

Almost everyone knows and agrees that not all the estimated 12 million immigrants currently residing illegally in the United States can or should be removed (25,000 reside in D.C.). Legislatively, Congress must decide who can stay and who must go. In the meantime, operationally, the president has the right to declare priorities on how to use limited taxpayer resources to execute immigration laws — including deportation — as efficiently as possible. 

President Trump, like President Obama before him, is unlikely to order the removal en masse of illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of a felony. DACA will not be repealed until it is replaced by Congress in the next year or so. There is no need for a special fund to “protect” non-criminal DREAMers when they are not going to be deported.

However, probably within a few days or weeks, President Trump will order the expeditious removal of immigrants convicted of serious felonies. That was President Obama’s stated priority as well.  

D.C. has declared itself a sanctuary city. It already forbids all D.C. law-enforcement officers from cooperating with immigration authorities to deport immigrants. And now the District is funding taxpayer grants to help. It is possible the city could lose crucial federal funds if it aggressively blocks federal immigration law enforcement.

The misuse of taxpayer funds to obstruct the lawful removal of convicted criminal immigrants undermines our criminal justice system and threatens community well-being. Furthermore, we can think of far better uses for the half-million dollars that seem to be burning a hole in D.C. officials’ pockets. 


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