Detained student proves craziness of immigration system

President Trump sees the immigration issue as one big negotiation.

First you do something dramatic to shake things up and put the other side on unsure footing.

A couple days ago, the Trump administration withdrew Temporary Protected Status from about 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who had been offered shelter by the George W. Bush administration in 2001. According to a Department of Homeland Security statement, they’ll have to find a way to obtain a green card, head home or be removed.

Then you gather the interested parties in a room and force them to strike a deal, assuring them that you’ll go along with whatever consensus emerges.

On Tuesday, Trump called congressional Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House and laid out his final terms for a deal that would protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from being deported when the program expires on March 5. The president’s demands included: funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall; an end to so-called chain migration; and the elimination of the immigrant lottery system, which makes getting into the United States a game of chance. Trump also expressed support for a new system that would amount to affirmative action for immigrants who are well-educated and highly skilled.

The Republicans at the meeting also called for a crackdown on those fabled “sanctuary cities” where the undocumented are supposedly untouchable. That may or may not make it into a final bill, and it’s not clear whether it’s a deal breaker for the White House.

By the way, let’s give Trump credit for allowing television cameras into the meeting. For once, double-talking politicians in both parties — who usually say one thing behind closed doors and another to reporters when the doors open — had to pick one position and stick to it. You gotta love clarity.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 miles away in California, many people are focused on something more urgent: the fate of a detained college student who happens to be an undocumented immigrant.

Luis Mora was recently apprehended at a border checkpoint while visiting family and friends near San Diego. Soon thereafter, the 20-year-old junior at the University of California, Berkeley — whose visa expired years ago and who applied for DACA protection but was denied — was transferred to ICE custody. He awaits deportation to his native Colombia, where he hasn’t lived since he was 11.

To a lot of people, this sounds crazy. Why remove someone who identifies more with this country than with where he was born? And does anyone believe that the United States becomes a better, safer place when someone like this is removed?

We ought to look for ways to keep people like Mora, not give away those assets to other countries. Does the same administration that wants to recruit immigrants with education also think that we should deport immigrants with education?

But while keeping Mora in this country might be the best thing for him, we should also look at what’s best for the immigration debate. Also, what about the entire population of 11 million illegal immigrants in this country?

How can we have a system that rewards young adults for making good decisions (like going to college) but doesn’t penalize them for making bad decisions (like letting their visas expire and foolishly taking a road trip near the U.S.-Mexico border)?

Many Americans want to help immigrants like Mora. That’s admirable. Yet the best way to help undocumented young people is to stop making excuses for them, treat them like adults, and make them accountable for their actions.

So what should happen to Mora? At the risk of losing friends on the left, here’s the short answer: the same thing that happens to other undocumented immigrants who fall into the clutches of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. College student or not, he should be deported.

Unless there is some unknown provision in the U.S. immigration code that says college students get special dispensation not afforded to housekeepers, gardeners and farmworkers.

It’s troubling that many of those who oppose President Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement stance are — in this case — so quick to adopt his simplistic paradigm of dividing immigrants into piles of good and bad.

A college student like Mora is considered a good immigrant, while his less-educated undocumented parents — who no doubt worked hard and sacrificed to get him to college in the first place — are bad ones?

You talk about a crazy system. There it is.