Papers, Please

Courtesy Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS

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Floating around President Trump’s Administration is a memorandum suggesting how 100,000 federally-funded National Guard troops in 11 states could be used to find, arrest and deport up to 11 million people residing illegally in the U.S.

New York Times quotes the memo: the Guard is “particularly well suited to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law and augment border security operations by department components.”

So reports the Associated Press/New York Times; so denies the White House. Nonetheless, though it may not be policy today, the memo exits, therefore it is.

Political Correctness as we know it today didn’t exist in 1953 but “fake news” did. Thus, retired Army General Joseph Swing, President Eisenhower’s West Point classmate could name his efforts to deport illegal aliens from Mexico– “Operation Wetback.”

Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Swing also felt at ease to dissemble his organization’s “success” by claiming in agency-issued press releases that besides the “50,000” (divided by 730 days, 68 people a day) it had actually deported, “480,000 illegal migrants fearing arrest had fled the country.”

Most Americans had no idea that anything named “Operation Wetback” ever existed. Until, that is, Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump claimed on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program that he would “deport” 11 million illegally present people — mostly Mexicans – within the first “18 months” of his Presidency. His “model?” “Operation Wetback.”

He said that the “Operation” deported 1.5 million people, that “some even think it was 2.3 million.” He gave no source. The INS itself never claimed those numbers. Extensive research on “Operation Wetback” concludes that at the very most, 342 people-a-day were deported over the two year-long program.

The question is: Does this memo’s suggestion of the National Guard violate the Posse Comitatus law (1878) that prohibits the use of the U.S. Army and Airforce to enforce civilian laws?

Is this the “deportation force” candidate Trump proclaimed on MSNBC in November 2015? Trump: “You’re going to have a deportation force.” The memorandum, the plan and policy it outlines fits President Trump’s entire Presidential campaign. He is also “ordering” 10,000 new immigration agents. That, however will take years to achieve. Thus, the National Guard suggestions; it exists today and can be mobilized within 30 days. Funding, however would have to come from Congress, will Congress go along?

What the policy/plan does not mention is that for any armed force of 100,000 untrained, non-professional “immigration officers” to function, it will have to racially profile. That is an illegal act.

Forget “probable cause” and the Constitution’s 4th Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches” that have been consistently upheld.

With 58 million Hispanics in the United States (plus Puerto Rico), probabilities are that 40-50 million look Mexican. 100,000 National Guardsmen aren’t enough. Nor are there enough days in the Trump Presidency left for all Mexican looking millions to be questioned for “papers.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary to a press pool: “That (plan) is 100 percent not true, it is false, it is irresponsible to be saying this…There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.” But, the memo exists.

Having 100,000 National Guardsmen pretending to be Immigration officers boggles the mind. To have them roaming around 24/7 demanding papers on the street or at ubiquitous road blocks does not sit well with people who know the U.S. Constitution.

For example, an unmarked Chevrolet with a police bubble atop it came to a squealing stop at the foot of Downtown San Diego’s main street, Broadway and the harbor. Three men in civilian clothes jumped out, guns drawn, screaming “INS…INS…Down, get down” on the ground. Who to, to a thirtysomething man in a coat and tie. He was handcuffed; standing him up, one yelled into his face “What’s your citizenship?”

“American,” he replied. “Prove it” the INS agent yelled. “Sure…My U.S. passport is in my coat inside pocket.” An agent reached in and pulled the passport out, looked at it, held it up to compare photo with face.

“He is.”

One agent removed the handcuffs, the other handed the passport back. He said, “You’re lucky you have a passport.” He did not say, “We apologize.”

I was lucky that day; me, United States Marine veteran.

My suspicious behavior: Standing in front of my tour company’s store-front office waiting a curbside for one of my buses looking Mexican. Good thing I had my U.S. passport with me that day. Will 40-50million Mexican-looking people be carrying “papers” when a National Guard corporal demands their “papers?”

Will National Guardsmen demanding proof of legal residency of 50 million people who look like me pass court muster?

Raoul Lowery-Contreras is the author of The Mexican Border: Trade (Floricanto Press, September 2016