My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Deport them all! A retrospective

Our president-elect has vowed, over the past year or so, to deport some number of immigrants, illegal and otherwise.  The number seems to continue to fall as reality settles upon Trump tower but we're still talking about millions of humans.  I've been at the sharp end of this particular stick and I'd like to share some of my recollections and thoughts:

First of all, what Trump is talking about doing – the deportation of criminal illegal aliens – is nothing new.  Ya'll that have been around here long enough will remember a federal program called 287(g).  This program allowed localities, under specific guidelines negotiated with the Federal Gov't, to place "immigration detainers" on people who had been arrested for a specific set of crimes and who were determined to be here illegally.  Under the agreement, ICE would train locally-provided officers on how to do the background research on ICE-provided computers.

In Manassas, there was some discussion about this program when I was first elected.  Jackson Miller was the main proponent but I thought it was a good idea as well so I supported it.  Jackson was hot to trot about Manassas having our own ICE program but the "best practice" for this program was to do all of this screening where you process folks who were arrested so we struck a deal with the County to have a 287(g) program at the Jail.  I think that ultimately the County and the City had their own 287 agreements but we never did anything with them – the jail was where this all took place.

To get the ball rolling, we reached out to ICE and indicated that we were interested and they came out and met with us.  That was an interesting meeting.  The ICE guys explained a lot about the program – to start with they were like "we ain't deporting everyone you can lay your hands on".  Period.  ICE was interested in deporting people who are both here illegally and who had committed a felony.  The City pushed back somewhat on including folks who were chronic offenders…10 drunk in public arrests or DUI, that kind of thing.  The ICE folks agreed with that.  We were talking about deporting illegal aliens who had committed serious crimes, sound familiar?

An interesting tidbit from that meeting: there is now and there was then this mantra around "ship their asses home".  It ain't that simple.  Many times their home country doesn't want them back.  We're like, "hey, we're bringing some of your people back" and the home country is like "you kids stop crank calling me!….<click>".  So those people with immigration detainers end up sitting in an ICE facility for some fair amount of time.  Not an argument either way, just a fact.  The ICE guys did allude to at least occasionally putting these folks on a plane and landing without permission and chasing everyone off the plane but that seemed like a pretty extreme situation.  If you think about the logistics of landing a large airplane at any decent airport, you'll agree that it's a bad idea.

The other thing to remember about 287(g) is that most of the cost is borne by the locality.  The officers who did the immigration research and processing were paid for by local taxpayers, not the federal government.  It also takes a lot of time for officers to process these folks.  I think the Chief indicated that helping process an immigration detainer took an officer off the street for four (?) hours.  We also have to house those folks for some amount of time – ICE doesn't just swing by with a bus and whisk everyone away.  Illegal aliens or not they are tried and, if convicted, served their time before they were handed over to ICE for deportation….and it could be weeks before ICE came to get them after they were notified.  After all, they have similar constraints in terms of jail space that we do.

At the end of the day, our local 287 program was very successful.  County-wide, we handed hundreds and hundreds of criminals over to ICE for deportation.  I've lost track of what the program looks like now but the Obama administration watered it down several times – first it was "Secure Communities" and then "PEP".  The upshot of both of those seems to be that the Feds removed the locals from the process and now only deport whatever people they see fit to deport.  That's too bad because the old program worked very well.  I expect that if Mr. Trump is serious about deporting illegal aliens his program will end up looking more like 287(g) and less like PEP…or maybe have elements of both.  Just remember, whatever action the Feds take, it is going to cost local tax dollars at some point.

The Local Results

Some have asked my thoughts on the local elections….well, the results speak for themselves.  The Democratic party in Manassas is ascendant and put on a convincing display of force.  The Democrats carried the entire contest with the sole exception of a single Council seat.  Mark Wolfe, despite the various head winds that he faced was the top vote-getter with 7,184 votes.  Pam Sebesky in second 6,474 and Ian rounding out the top three with 5,852.  Theresa Ellis came very close to taking Ians' spot with 5,757 votes.  The Mayor was unopposed – a situation that is very unlikely to occur in four years.

I was not surprised by Mark's success.  He has always performed well no matter how hard the far right goes to defeat him (and they've done some outlandish stuff).  He's a popular guy.  I was a little surprised by where Pam and Ian ended up – I thought Ian would take second but Pam benefited from people who were straight ticket voters (which appear to have been most people).  Ian and Theresa worked hard and I think that's why the democrats didn't sweep the entire contest.  It's clear that the republicans are going to have to work hard on turning out their folks in the future.  The base of reliable republican votes seems to be a little smaller than the democrats but those democrat voters are indeed willing to cross over and vote GOP so future contests are likely to be relatively fluid affairs.

As for governance of the city, it means the elected folk from both parties will have to work together.  The Council is split 3-3 with the republican mayor being the tie-breaking vote.  On policy items the republicans could implement legislation without the democrats.  An important thing to remember is that the Council alone can vote to expend funds and that requires 4 votes.  The budget process could be interesting.

There were a number of firsts in this cycle: it's the first time we have had a local election the same time as a Presidential election and it is the first time we've had slick, professionally produced hit pieces sent out by a PAC – Awareness Manassas.

There has been a lot of discussion and hand-wringing about the election date.  The arguments against revolve around "the people that are voting don't know what they're voting on".  The arguments for revolve around turnout and "the more people that are involved in the process the better it is".  My thought is this: I kind of agree with all of that.  No, many people who are voting don't know or haven't studied the Council candidates but I view this as a problem for the candidates to solve.  Ultimately if you want to get elected, you need to educate the voters.  I'm sorry it is harder than it used to be but that's the way it is.  Elected office ain't a beauty pageant (Good thing for me).  There has been some talk of moving the date again and I've heard elected officials talk about moving the date by simply taking a vote of Council.  That shocks me.  The current election date was set by referendum – the absolute voice of the people.  I would think that politicians that aren't prepared to respect that should be prepared to get booted out of office.  My message to those that want to move the date is this: cowboy up and get the question put to a referendum.  It ain't hard.

The "hit pieces"….well, if we're Facebook friends you know how I feel.  I think that the ads that Mr. Youlen ran and the mailers that "Awareness Manassas" sent out were despicable.  There are ways to convey information that do not require that kind of imagery and accusation.  Yes, there is room in our contests for "sharp elbows" but that is as far as it should go.  I believe those negative mailers cost the Republicans votes and they definitely cost them a fair amount of good will (even though the candidates didn't send them).  I think that using that tactic in a small city like Manassas is incredibly destructive and short-sighted.  Do those responsible not think that somebody is going to find out who was associated?  The republican party, to their credit, disavowed the mailers but some of the republican electeds didn't seem to mind.  For my part, I'll not be associated with crap like that and that's why I resigned my post within the party several days before the election.  If you think I was associated with those mailers in any way you need your head examined.  Manassas is my home town.  I cherish and respect it.  She deserves better.

Going forward, two years from now, we have Elston, Bass and Aveni.  More or less the entire political spectrum!  It will be interesting to see if the democrats again bring a full slate and who the third republican will be.  The electoral landscape will be a bit different – it won't be a presidential year but Mr. Trump could have an effect on our local and congressional elections.  If he's going full-on "DTrump", harranguing people on twitter and gets bogged down in social issues, it will definately drive turnout at the local level.  If he's somewhat restrained and sticks to the four or five big picture changes he can make then he will be less of a catalyst for turnout.  My bet?  Well, Trump is Trump and he's aligned himself with the right wing of the republican party.  The election in two years will be about Trump.

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