For Kathy Castor, it’s simple: “We’re a country of laws, and if you’re in the country illegally, you are subject to deportation.”
However, perhaps acknowledging the sentiment among the American public, the Tampa Democratic congresswoman had little to say Monday about the recent directives from the Department of Homeland Security that expand the scope for law enforcement officials to deport undocumented immigrants.
Instead, Castor said the situation calls for a return to looking for a more comprehensive solution to the issue.
Castor prefers the priorities of the Obama administration, who directed federal agents to concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals, and left most other undocumented immigrants alone.
“What is missing from the dialogue is how we address folks who have overstayed a visa and simply want to work legally in the country,” she said, bemoaning the fact that there is no discussion on Capitol Hill to discuss finding a pathway to citizenship for those whose work skills are needed in the U.S.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week the president wants to “take the shackles off” of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
On that subject, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, pointed to a published report about ICE agents waiting in a Denver courthouse hallway without a warrant to apprehend an undocumented immigrant.
“When a president gives the green light to federal law enforcement agencies that target vulnerable immigrants and operate with impunity,” Sharry said Monday, “this is what you get: out of control police forces that declare open season on anyone they encounter.”
“This is not the America we aspire to be,” he added. “Both the policy and the implementation of the policy run counter to our self-proclaimed identity as a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”
“Our law enforcement does a very good job if someone is here illegally and they commit a crime. There’s a lot of cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agencies,” Castor said.
“But if we can’t address a legal pathway, then we’re not going to find a solution [for] immigration issues.”
Though there hasn’t been a whole lot of public polling on the issue, a McLaughlin & Associates survey published earlier this month showed that 69 percent of respondents approved of Trump’s executive order to make deportation of undocumented immigrants “who are criminals” a top priority.
That poll also showed the majority of voters support cutting off federal grants to sanctuary cities that refuse to turn in undocumented immigrants, 59 percent to 29 percent.
A Harvard–Harris Poll published last week found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the undocumented immigrants with whom they come into contact.
The poll showed that 52 percent said in that poll that they support Trump’s two executive orders allowing for the construction of a southern border wall, increasing the number of immigration officers by 10,000 and finding a way to revoke federal funds for sanctuary cities.
Castor is critical of an attempt to build a security wall on the Mexican border. Some estimates have show that it cost more than $20 billion.
President Donald Trump announced Monday he would boost Pentagon spending by $54 billion in his first budget proposal, slashing the same amount from non-defense spending, with that increase being funded partly by cuts to the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other non-defense programs.
“We also have to be very cognizant of the costs of all of this. Can America afford now to pay for this border wall, and a huge increase in border patrol agents?” Castor asked, adding that she believes government needs to invest in places that create jobs.