During one of those Trump-Biden debates last year, Biden called Trump’s immigrant family separation policy “criminal.”
Then, earlier this month, Biden called it “garbage” that his administration would pay $450,000 to each person in each family previously separated. Then three days later, he said, legal or illegal, they “deserve some kind of compensation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union noted, diplomatically, that Biden might not be fully informed about what his Justice Department had endorsed. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said immigrant family separation was “a deep moral stain on our country. We need to make it right, and this includes not simply any monetary support, but also a path to remain here.”
Many aren’t buying that. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, for example, called it “insanity.” Said Cotton: “It’s unthinkable to pay a burglar who broke into your home for the ‘psychological trauma’ they endured during the crime.”
True, burglars are criminals. But are “unauthorized” immigrants true criminals? “No,” says the Associated Press. In 2013, AP changed its AP Stylebook, to which media across the country adhere. These changes ultimately leach into our everyday lexicon. To AP, the “act” of unauthorized entry into the U.S. is illegal but persons committing the act are merely “undocumented.”
Here’s the skinny. Entering the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor “crime requiring a fine, jail or both, and subjects one to deportation.” Re-entry, after having been deported, bumps the crime to felony status, with severe consequences.
If one eludes authorities after crossing our border illegally or entered legally but “forgot” and overstayed their visa, then mere presence in the U.S. is not criminal. Crazily, it’s a civil offense (think parking ticket), with only civil penalties attached.
However, the words “‘illegal aliens” are found in U.S. Supreme Court decisions both before and after the AP Stylebook change.
Whatever you call it, it’s occurring at unprecedented levels. More than 1.7 million illegal border crossers were apprehended during the past 12 months, the most on record.
Let’s look at a few reasons why, along with the problems each poses.
Immigration control is a federal responsibility. In 11 states, including North Carolina, political subdivisions claim the 10th Amendment’s separation of powers provision shields them from having to use their resources to assist with a federal responsibility. So, they don’t.
However, sanctuary policies violate federal statutes that require “all” government entities to cooperate with immigration authorities and certify cooperation before accepting any federal grant money.
Immigration sanctuaries attract folks that cross our borders illegally. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment requires all “persons” in each state to be counted in each census. The census determines the number of House seats allocated to each state. States with large numbers of immigrants, legal or not, acquire extra seats, extra electoral votes, and extra power to determine appropriations — our governance is partially determined by illegal aliens.
The Supreme Court also held, in 1898, that the 14th Amendment grants “birthright citizenship” to all “born or naturalized” in the U.S. They instantly become “citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” Notably, each country in the European Union, plus New Zealand and Australia, has eliminated birthright citizenship from its legal system.
Undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities have babies, as do “birth tourists,” who visit the U.S. to have so-called “anchor babies.” Why? Well, from 1924, under the National Origins Act, immigration law was basically a system of “ethnic quotas to codify America as a white, Protestant nation.”
But in 1965 that law was replaced by the Immigration and Nationality Act. It prioritized entry for people with family already in America, establishing what is known as “chain migration.” Between 2007 and 2016, seven of 11 million immigrants were admitted to the U.S. via chain migration and/or anchor babies.
You don’t have to have a baby to game our immigration system. During July and August this year, 37,805 unaccompanied minors entered the U.S. from Mexico. In 1985, 15-year-old Jenny Flores was incarcerated when caught entering illegally. Following a succession of suits, the U.S. agreed to the Flores Settlement Agreement. It requires that, within 20 days, unaccompanied minors be turned over to a parent or other family member already in the U.S. or placed in a suitable facility. They’re not charged with anything.
Without doubt, the worst impediment to a well-run, modernized, immigration system is the whipsaw rate of changes from president to president. Say what you will about Trump, but wherever the border wall was built, comparatively, illegal immigration verifiably vanished. Trump’s “remain in Mexico” while awaiting an asylum decision was similarly effective.
But current Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, when asked if he believes there is a crisis at the border, “I think the answer is no. I think there is a challenge at the border that we are managing.”
Michael Smith is a Southern Pines resident.