Trump’s deportations are mainly for show

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Agents from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement are launching major raids in a dozen cities this weekend aimed at deporting some 2,000 undocumented immigrants.

And in case you credited President Trump when he said it’s foolish to telegraph a major operation by announcing it in advance, never mind.

Mr. Trump himself did the telegraphing.

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“There’s nothing to be secret about,” said the president, who called Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf a “disgrace” when she gave advance notice about raids in her city a few months ago. “If the word gets out, it gets out,” he said.

It got out.

Mr. Trump suggested the raids would be “focused on criminals as much as we can,” which would be fine if it were true.

In fact, Homeland Security officials who confirmed the planned operation to the New York Times said the roundups would mainly target migrant families.

ICE is an enforcement agency and is within its rights to deport undocumented migrants who have been ordered removed after receiving due process of law. These planned deportations, however, are mainly for show.

There are two main audiences. One is the nativists in Mr. Trump’s political base, who may have noticed that despite his huffing and puffing — and very likely partly because of it — undocumented migrants are entering the country at a rate unseen in more than a decade.

That has evidently left the president in need of an ostentatious way to show he is turning the tide.

The other audience is prospective migrants in Central America, whom the administration would like to deter by sending the message, with its deportation show of force, that trekking across the border is likely to be costly and ultimately fruitless.

Yet it seems unlikely that the planned deportations, albeit highly publicized, will offset the reality of 11?million undocumented immigrants who continue living in the United States, in most cases as law-abiding and productive members of their communities, where their labor is in demand.

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