News & Politics

A Plea for a Rational Immigration Enforcement Policy

(Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)

Donald Trump took office promising to address the problem of illegal immigration — the first president to do so in a generation. He promised to build a wall on our southern border to halt the flow of illegals from Mexico and Central America. He promised to fix our broken immigration system. He promised to rid the US of illegal alien criminals. And he promised to more closely vet refugees from some countries where terrorism was rampant.

We will not apologize for exercising our sovereign right — the same right exercised by every other country in the world — to decide who can come and live in America and who can’t. Nor should we apologize for deporting illegal alien criminals who prey on Americans.

But a rational immigration enforcement policy must include the very American virtues of fair play and simple justice. Unfortunately, our current policy is both unfair and unjust.

Jorge Garcia, an illegal alien, entered the country when he was nine years old. He married and fathered two sons and for 30 years, did not commit a crime, worked, paid taxes, and by all reports, became fully assimilated in his adopted country.

Today, on Martin Luther King day, he was escorted on to a plane by ICE agents bound for Mexico.

Detroit Free Press:

Garcia’s case is the latest example of immigrants who previously would have been allowed to remain in the U.S., but not now as the U.S. seeks to remove more immigrants. Garcia is too old to qualify for DACA, which allows the children of undocumented immigrants to legally work and study in the U.S.

Garcia said he had asked ICE if they could wait until new DACA legislation is passed, which might expand the age range for immigrants to qualify. But, he said, they refused and said he had to leave by Jan. 15.

“How do you do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?” said Erik Shelley, a leader with Michigan United, which advocates for immigrant rights and other issues. “It’s another example of the tone-deafness of this administration. … If Jorge isn’t safe, no one is safe.”

Shelley said he’s concerned that minority immigrants are increasingly being targeted, citing remarks Trump has made about African and Hispanic immigrants.

Shelley was joined at the airport by other immigrant advocates and an official with the UAW, which has been supportive of Garcia.

A spokesman for ICE said he could not immediately comment Monday since it was a federal holiday, and their offices are closed.

“I feel kind of sad,” Garcia said Sunday night, his eyes welling up. “I got to leave my family behind, knowing that they’re probably going to have a hard time adjusting. Me not being there for them for who knows how long. It’s just hard.”

Garcia is barred from entering the U.S. for at least 10 years.

Before he went through security, he hugged his two kids and wife, Cindy, who cried out and sobbed.

Jorge Garcia has never lived in Mexico as an adult and is worried about finding work and a new life.

Garcia is as American as anyone reading this. But we are blowing up his life for something someone else did 30 years ago.

Immigration enforcement — even tough immigration enforcement — is right and necessary. But enforcing the law without justice is tyranny. We don’t send people to jail anymore for stealing a loaf of bread, or getting themselves in debt. Our concept of justice has evolved– tempered by our humanity which allows us to adopt a more rational approach to questions of crime and punishment.

We must enforce our immigration laws for the simple reason that we have a sovereign right to do so. Practically speaking, that means preventing criminals from entering the US legally, and if they are here illegally, deporting them.

To deny this is a problem is to deny reality. It is not a right wing, nativist fantasy that illegal aliens are more likely to commit crimes, as the GAO pointed out in a 2011 study:

The findings in the second report are even more disturbing. It reviewed the criminal histories of 55,322 aliens in federal or state prisons and local jails who “entered the country illegally.” Those illegal aliens were arrested 459,614 times, an average of 8.3 arrests per illegal alien, and committed almost 700,000 criminal offenses, an average of roughly 12.7 offenses per illegal alien.

The 2011 GAO report is more of the same. The criminal histories of 251,000 criminal aliens showed that they had committed close to three million criminal offenses. Sixty-eight percent of those in federal prison and 66 percent of those in state prisons were from Mexico. Their offenses ranged from homicide and kidnapping to drugs, rape, burglary, and larceny.

But it is also wrong to lump all 11 million illegal aliens currently residing in the US in with the criminals. I don’t know how many Jorge Garcias there are in the US. I suspect there are millions of illegals who aren’t criminals, are not a drain on our resources, pay taxes, and are productive members of society.

That’s why any rational, humane immigration enforcement policy must take all factors into account before summarily ordering someone to leave the country. Otherwise, there is no justice, only arbitrary and capricious application of the law. That is the definition of tyranny.

In life, we take people one at a time as they come at us. If we’re like most Americans, we don’t usually judge someone without getting to know them. But we have decided to judge illegal aliens not as individuals who may or may not deserve to be deported, but as a group. That, to my mind, is un-American and goes against the principles upon which our country was founded.