By Alley McIntosh and Ken Oliver

The future of U.S. immigration law enforcement was the focus of the Right on Immigration panel held during the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2021 Policy Orientation. Taking place just days before the change of administration in Washington, the panel was moderated by Right on Immigration Senior Director Ken Oliver and featured as panelists former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tom Homan, Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback and TPPF Senior Fellow on Border Security Josh Jones.

Homan said the best course of action for the new administration would have been to build on the successes of the Trump administration, instead of reversing course almost across the board, as has been announced.

“I was hoping that President Joe Biden would come in and say, ‘Okay, well, this is a great success. Let me build upon that success. Let’s finally have a secure border,'” Homan said.

The panelists agreed that cooperation between local and federal authorities is key to sensible enforcement of U.S. immigration law. Sheriff Louderback noted that some 26 sheriffs in the state of Texas currently participate in cooperative arrangements such as the 287(g) program. However, the Biden administration’s plans to prevent the deportation of anyone except terrorists and those convicted of felony crimes will sharply reduce the beneficial impact of such programs, which are meant to prevent removeable public safety threats from being released back into the community.

Louderback warned that the Biden administration’s support for sanctuary city and state policies will only increase crime and human trafficking throughout the state and the rest of the nation. Homan added that the new administration’s plan to end the use of federally contracted private detention facilities will also cripple ICE, as most of the agency’s detention capacity is privately contracted. Without adequate detention capacity, Homan said, the country will be back to “catch and release,” which will only lead to additional illegal immigration.

TPPF’s Josh Jones said that instead of ending effective Trump administration policies, the Biden administration should work to improve the use of technology along the border and put more pressure on the Mexican government to end endemic corruption in that country. Jones said that in Mexico, “corruption is not a problem, but the problem,” noting that it is systemic at every level of government. Jones also noted that most illicit drugs that cross the border arrive either through tunnels or through corruption in port shipping systems. “If there’s one thing that we can do better in terms of technology on the border, it’s in tunnel detection,” Jones said.
Based on their observations, it is clear the panelists expect the negative effects of the new administration’s ill-considered immigration enforcement policies to result in a worsening crisis on the border and a sharp negative public reaction, followed (hopefully) by a return to more sensible policies in the near future.