Want to know why the Department of Homeland Security, starting with the New Year, began stepping up midnight raids and rushing the expulsion of undocumented Central Americans and Mexicans? Washington’s ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, provides at least a partial answer.
Mounting criticism in El Salvador led Aponte, on January 7 (just five days after the raids started), to hold a press conference making clear the reasons for the round-ups, which have targeted women and children and broken up families: deterrence. “It is important,” she said, “to emphasize that there are clear and grave consequences for families and individuals that don’t comply with immigration law.” “To enter the United States without documents,” the ambassador continued, “doesn’t confer the right to stay in the country.”
Many liberals have found the policy inexplicably brutal, coming from a president who often telegraphs his humanity and sensitivity to suffering. It is, of course, the very nature of the modern state to combine spectacle and the covert, to perform justice while practicing cruelty. Still, why announce the policy just before Christmas, as the administration did? Why call such attention to an initiative that seems to enact Donald Trump’s presidential agenda, especially when the administration had already been deporting Central Americans and Mexicans at a healthy clip (nearly 90,000 to Central America alone in 2015)?