“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated.”
While Democrats and immigration rights activists have generally been scathing in their assessment of Donald Trump’s immigration policy, the president’s hardline stance appears to be working – at least when it comes to the number of illegal immigrants who are voluntarily removing themselves from the United States.
“Voluntary departure” applications are surging according to a Tuesday report from criminal justice-focused news organization the Marshall Project. Data compiled by the Marshall Project shows that 29,818 voluntary departure applications were filed last year, a seven-year high.
Applications rose by 50 percent in 2017. In 2018, they doubled.
One Atlanta court alone saw applications for voluntary departures increase by nearly seven times from 2016 to 2018, the Marshall Project reported.
The Trump administration is likely to frame the numbers as evidence that its policies are working. In a 2017 memo, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions touted the increases in voluntary departures as “part of a continued effort to return the rule of law.”
Reforming the country’s “ineffective and dangerous” immigration laws was a priority for Trump since his 2016 candidacy. More recently, Trump has called on Congress to address what he and his administration have characterized as a “crisis” at the border. The president has accused lawmakers of dragging their feet on the issue.
In February, he declared a national emergency to circumvent Congressional opposition and gain $8 billion to begin his long-promised southern border wall. Democrats, especially, have been resistant to the notion that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border constitutes an imminent crisis.
More recently, liberals and Democrats were infuriated by the revelation that Trump was considering dumping detained immigrants in sanctuary cities. According to an April report in the Washington Post, the White House twice proposed sending detainees to sanctuary cities, including the California district of Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In a November email, the White House asked several agencies whether it would be possible to bus arrested migrants to “small-and mid-sized sanctuary cities.” Among other Democratic strongholds, Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was considered a target according to the Post.
Trump later confirmed that his administration had considered and is still considering implementing the plan. In a statement responding to the news, Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne accused the administration of using human beings as political pawns.
“The extent of this Administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” Etienne said. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal.”
“The American people have resoundingly rejected this Administration’s toxic anti-immigrant policies, and Democrats will continue to advance immigration policies that keep us safe and honor our values,” she added.
But conservatives, such as GOP National spokeswoman Liz Harrington, dismissed the idea that Trump was using immigrants as pawns.
“He’s just asking the Democrats to live by their own values,” she said in a tweet. “Just like they aren’t brave enough to vote for their Green New Socialist Deal, they apparently do not want any more immigrants in their ‘sanctuary’ cities.”