A Present For Immigrants

Despite our secular government’s tepid refusal to recognize that all the best deals on shiny merchandise are grounded in our historic Christian ethic, the Obama Administration has snuck a little gift for immigrants under the tree.  No matter how many haters prefer to arbitrarily rail against groups speaking different languages or enjoying different customs than their grandparents did, ICE-master and Obama elf Janet Napolitano announced the change :

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has directed ICE to focus its resources on key priorities in all aspects of its immigration enforcement efforts.

This guidance limits the use of detainers to individuals who meet the department’s enforcement priorities and restricts the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes, helping to ensure that available resources are focused on apprehending felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities.

Merry Christmas! You no longer have to cower in the corner for fear of deportation over getting a ticket for that broken taillight. ICE will not send out the SWAT team to get you. In fact, unless they stumble over you, chances of your being deported are fairly small.

The  New York Times applauds this huge shift in immigration enforcement.

The new policy places stricter conditions on when Immigration and Customs Enforcement sends requests, known as detainers, to local law-enforcement agencies asking them to hold suspected immigration violators in jail until the government can pick them up. Detainers will be issued for serious offenders — those who have been convicted or charged with a felony, who have three or more misdemeanor convictions, or have one conviction or charge for misdemeanor crimes like sexual abuse, drunken driving, weapons possession or drug trafficking. Those who illegally re-entered the country after having been deported or posing a national-security threat would also be detained. But there would be no detainers for those with no convictions or records of only petty offenses like traffic violations.

Most people reading this will be satisfied by the vague rhetoric, distinguishing “serious” from “petty” and muttering to themselves, “that sounds about right.”  Those of us in the trenches, whose clients have lived in this wonderful country for decades, who have paid taxes and bought homes, raised children and started businesses, recognize the worthlessness of such characterizations. 

And indeed, if you look a little closer, it becomes readily apparent.  Drunk driving?  So a guy named Jose blows a .08% BAC into a magic black box and never breathes free American air again after the detainer falls, his wife and three kids wondering how they will feed themselves as Jose is returned to a country he left at 3 months of age?

A crime in this country is 97% established by the fact of arrest.  It may be the result of conduct that both justifies punishment and was in fact committed by the guy in cuffs.  Never forget that people do engage in criminal conduct, harm others and could stand a vacation at Club Fed. 

The fact that they cop a plea doesn’t make them guilty or a threat to society. It makes them afraid. It makes them fearful that the alternative, trial, risks even more.  But for this group, it’s not just a draconian sentence, but one followed by a flight to a place far away from the life they worked so hard to create. 

But at least the government won’t go out of its way to deport heinous traffic offenders anymore. Or, as the New York Times says, “those with no convictions.”  Is this supposed to be a miracle, that the United States of America will cease deporting people who have done absolutely nothing wrong?

When Congress amended the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 in 1996 to make legal immigrants deportable for the commission of “aggravated felonies” under §101(a)(43), it didn’t seem like such a terrible idea.  After all, the words said it was limited to “felonies,” which had an understood meaning of crimes punishable by more than a year in prison and thus recognized to be serious, and further enhanced by the word “aggravated,” which wasn’t entirely clear but suggested an even higher level of seriousness than the norm.

Somehow, this has come to mean pretty much everything bad that can be twisted in any way to make it sound threatening, awful or dangerous.  It’s pretty easy to make any crime sound dangerous with a few well-placed nasty words. 

Worse still, Congress applied it retroactively, so that crimes that happened 50 years ago were fair game for deportation, back at a time when the decision to plead guilty and take probation had no deportation consequences.

But hey, it’s not like the good people of this country care about giving immigrants a break. After all, we got ours, so screw ’em.  They’re taking our jobs, like mowing lawns for 12 hours a day at minimum wage and denying this vast wealth building opportunity to our children.  We can’t have that.

Sealing borders is hard, especially with all those tunnels and desperate people willing to risk their lives walking across arid lands to provide a better life for their children.  That’s why the government has come up with this significant change in immigration policy, proving itself tough but fair by limiting the strict enforcement of deportation policies to only the most heinous of legal immigrants.  Never again will they deport an immigrant who has done absolutely nothing wrong, unless, of course, they happen to get caught up in our criminal justice system and, under threat of decades in prison, decide a plea is the only sane option.

But since our criminal justice system is the best in the world and never makes mistakes, it’s understandable that the New York Times is kvelling over the new policy.  What could possibly go wrong? Feliz Navidad!

2 comments on “A Present For Immigrants

  1. Jordan Rushie

    Not entirely relevant to your article…

    Growing up, I was fairly right-wing conservative. Immigration seemed like a black and white issue – you’re here illegal, you don’t belong here. Go home. Save the good jobs for tax paying, God fearing blue blooded Americans.

    When I went to law school, I couldn’t find a law job, so I waited tables at Ruby Tuesday. This later turned out to be better for my legal career than any clerk job would have been, but yet I digress…

    Almost the entire kitchen staff was illegal. Most of them had risked their lives traveling through the desert to end up in Wilmington, DE to make hamburgers in a mall restaurant.

    Once we got comfortable with each other it turned out they were really cool, hard working dudes. They could barely speak English but we had all kinds of inside jokes going, food fights, and nicknames for other people.

    They couldn’t get booze because they had no IDs, so I’d drive to the liquor store after work and get them booze and tequila – usually on my own dime. Hell, they helped me make that money serving, by getting the food out quickly and correctly, so it was the least I could do. In exchange, if I came in for an early shift, they would cook me an authentic Mexican breakfast – just a little bit of eggs, chicken, jalapeños, all on a corn tortilla.

    Working at Ruby’s changed my entire view on illegal immigration, because it was suddenly a human issue. It’s interesting how far away and detached you can be from an issue, and how being up close to it changes your entire perspective.

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