I recently interviewed Harry DeMell, an immigration lawyer since 1977 and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, about the current immigration crisis.
Schupak: Explain to me why you think Donald Trump is right and wrong at the same time.
DeMell: Trump is wrong when he says that Mexicans are criminals. They are statistically less likely to be than the average population but he is correct when he says our enforcement system needs improving. I don't think he has a handle on the details of either and he's playing to the lowest common denominator, fear.
Schupak: What about the recent incident where a Mexican illegal killed a young woman by mistake?
DeMell: No system will be perfect. Even in a Trump administration there would be crimes like this.
Schupak: This man was deported several times though.
DeMell: No one seems to know the details. It is a crime to be found in the United States after deportation. Usually those caught get a two-year sentence. This is done on a regular basis but I don't know why he was not sentenced for this.
Schupak: Wouldn't immigration reform solve these problems?
DeMell: First of all, the devil is in the details. Different people define the term differently. President Obama would grant an amnesty for all illegals here. That would do nothing here. More enforcement might help but it's the details of enforcement that count. I don't hear those details from Donald Trump.
Schupak: What details do you recommend?
DeMell: For one, swift and sure punishment is the best deterrent. Deportation cases can drag on for years making them not an immediate threat. We need to at least double the number of immigration courts. This will move the process along faster. It will also help by making more room in the immigration prison system by holding people for less time and would be more humane for that reason. Trump seems to have no details, just rhetoric.
Schupak: Isn't Donald Trump bad for the Republican Party?
DeMell: Yes and no again. I think he's a ten minute wonder. I think he has about fifteen points in the Republican presidential polls. He won't go higher. I think if you polled the Democrats you would find about the same amount of support. His negatives are much higher on both sides. After the first couple of primaries he's toast.
Schupak: Yes but he is presenting ideas that might become mainstream.
DeMell: I hope he will take this issue mainstream but in a constructive way.
Schupak: How so?
DeMell: Instead of slogans we need an intelligent discussion about what is good for America and Americans. What's good for us is an efficient system that allows the government to monitor who comes here and why in a more efficient manner. We need to break down the immigrants into classes and determine who we want and why. We need to determine how many Workers are needed on a permanent and temporary basis and in a way that does not have a large impact on American jobs. It's hard to think we'll allow immigrants to come here and get jobs before our veterans.
Schupak: You just said a lot. How would you classify immigrants differently that the way we do now?
DeMell: I wouldn't. We basically classify aliens now as family, employment based, asylees and some others. I might tweet it but I would not change it. The problem is the current push for 'immigration reform' is usually a call for amnesty and that would be a disaster.
Schupak: Why do you think an amnesty would be a disaster?
DeMell: Because it would encourage millions of people to come here in search of the next amnesty and make it harder to control the borders. I don't care if they call it earned legalization or another euphemism its amnesty under a different term.
Schupak: It seems that the Republican Party will lose the Latino vote and lose any future majority if they take Trump's positions.
DeMell: I hate when the press lumps all Latinos together. That shows prejudice and it paints them gray. They are as complicated as any American and they will vote that way as time goes on. What history shows is that when people become American they become American. Americans sometimes vote on one issue but most Americans want good and efficient government, policies that further a variety of interests, they want certain government services and don't want others. The children of these new immigrants will vote American and that is the way it should be.
Schupak: Thank you.