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The deportation sweep Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at food processing plants in Mississippi left a trail of tears, business jitters and widespread anxiety in places where undocumented immigrants are so woven into communities the towns would struggle to exist without them.

President Donald Trump, whose own family business has for many years employed migrants who entered the country illegally, pronounced the Mississippi action a "very good deterrent" to unauthorized immigration. The evidence for that assertion is nil. Still, the sweep provided some useful reminders, not least that the United States cannot deport its way out of a dysfunctional immigration system.

First, the raids underline American agriculture's deep dependency on undocumented workers, who in 2014 accounted for 17 percent of employees in the sector

Second, any large-scale enforcement action will inevitably result in families being broken apart - including those whose children are U.S. citizens.

Third, businesses like the ones in Mississippi that employ undocumented workers are subject to federal prosecution. But it was Republican leaders in the House of Representatives last year, on Trump's watch, who blocked legislation that would have required private employers to use E-Verify, a data system used to check whether employees are legally in the country.

Enforcement alone, in the absence of sweeping reform of existing laws, cannot make a dent in the nation's population of 10.5 million undocumented immigrants.

Commentary on 08/13/2019

Print Headline: Not a solution

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