The Land Of Limited Opportunity

For a brief and shining moment, it was a microaggression to call America the land of opportunity, the melting pot, the various traditional phrases that expressed our immigrant heritage and how from many, we became one. E pluribus unum. So awful.

But the focus has now shifted off of such silliness to recognized reality that Americans want their borders back. To that end, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has issued battle plans to put into effect the promises made on the campaign trail. Ironically, this has been going on for a while now, although few were aware of it because they were too obsessed with their feelings to see.

As MSNBC’s Christopher Hayes offered, our immigration enforcement strength has been ramping up for a while, with few paying attention.

Notably, the overwhelming majority are stationed on our southern border. There’s a reason for this. Americans aren’t fleeing the United States because it’s such a horrible place, but people from Mexico and points south seem to think well enough of the opportunities here that they want in.

A quick flashback: The Obama administration recognized that millions of unauthorized immigrants, especially those with citizen children and strong ties to their communities and this country, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, national-security threats and recent border crossers.

And the Obama administration did so in spades. But at the same time, there was a cogent grasp of distinctions amongst immigrants that is being lost in the current melting pot of deportables. On one side the confusion is the undifferentiated treatment of “aliens” as all bad hombres, illegals and stealing our jerbs. On the other is the similarly undifferentiated treatment of all, it’s unclear what word is acceptable today, non-citizens(?) as wonderful and deserving of the full panoply of America’s grace.

Here’s the part that the latter group might find incomprehensible. A shocking 80% of Americans think Sanctuary Cities, a fictional concept like so many of the fantasies embraced by progressives, are bad and shouldn’t be allowed to avoid federal reporter laws.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll provided exclusively to The Hill found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.

But the good news from the same poll is that it’s not that Americans just hate aliens. They may not support non-citizens coming here, enjoying whatever it is they find so enjoyable that our college students do not, then avoiding our laws. But they are in favor of a more nuanced, more differentiated, more rational immigration regimen.

The Harvard–Harris Poll survey found strong support for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, with 77 percent saying they support comprehensive immigration reform against only 23 percent who oppose.

What an “overhaul” means isn’t clear. What is clear is that Kelly is in the process of an overhaul of the deportation priorities (note, not the law, which is unchanged from before and could always be used to deport any person who lacked the authorization to reside in the United States).

Mr. Kelly has swept away those notions. He makes practically every deportable person a deportation priority. He wants everybody, starting with those who have been convicted of any crime, no matter how petty or old. Proportionality, discretion, the idea that some convictions are unjust, the principles behind criminal-justice reform — these concepts do not apply.

This New York Times description may be confusing. This is not about people who are here with authorization, or lawfully as some might call it. This is about people who are undocumented, who came into the United States without lawful documentation, or overstayed their visas. But as the Times correctly notes, there is a policy shift from some undocumented aliens being priorities for seizure and exclusion to pretty much all of them.

The targets now don’t even have to be criminals. They could simply have been accused of a crime (that is, still presumed “innocent”) or have done something that makes an immigration agent believe that they might possibly face charges.

To be clear, being an undocumented alien isn’t a crime. That, alone, doesn’t make them criminals. Just undocumented. The solution is to return them to the place of origin, not put them in prison. That some, while here, have also committed crimes, which is another level of concern. Others are accused of crimes (and, as noted, still presumed “innocent” unless it was a sex crime, in which case the New York Times says burn the witch), but they are still here without authorization.

The issue is priority of exclusion. Under existing, long-standing law, they could all be rounded up and deported, not because they are criminals but because they are here in violation of our immigration laws. So can they do this? Of course they can. What do you think all those new border agents were doing under Obama?

But the new plan introduces mechanisms, not laws, that may serve this purpose by creating very dangerous burdens here. Aside from hiring 10,000 new border guards (and more people with guns and authoritah are never a problem), there is the problem of distinguishing the deportables from those who are here lawfully.

So is the danger to due process. Current procedure allows for swiftly deporting, without a hearing, immigrants who are caught near the border and who entered very recently. But Mr. Kelly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been here “continuously” for at least two years. He’s keeping his options open about whether to short-circuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers policy.

The undifferentiated grasp of the immigration problem that permeates both sides of the debate may give rise to a solution as proposed by Kelly that will go a few steps beyond the pale. Will everybody who has dark skin, speaks with an accent, orders frijoles, now be seized and the burden shifted to them to prove themselves?

What the Harvard-Harris Poll shows is that Americans are ready for immigration reform, a thoughtful way of addressing people who have been here as contributing, taxpaying workers even if their parents slipped across the border decades ago. With one party in control of the executive, Congress and most statehouses across the nation*, reform can be accomplished.

So why are we going in the opposite direction? Because the war is still being waged as an all-or-nothing proposition, that all undocumented aliens, whether they arrived yesterday or decades ago, whether they’re convicted of murder or parking in the wrong space, should be entitled to evade our laws and get a free pass. This war will be lost, and screaming platitudes into the void about xenophobes won’t change that even though you can’t begin to understand why everybody doesn’t realize you’re right.

If the battle was for reform, if the discussion was nuanced and distinguished, we might be at a point in time when Americans could support significant reform, and make it happen. We will not be a nation of open borders, but we could be a nation capable of accepting undocumented immigrants into our melting pot. Or a nation where border agents demand that people show them their papers, which is the worst of all possible outcomes.

*This, according to the media calculus using new math, means that progressives are winning.

18 thoughts on “The Land Of Limited Opportunity

  1. B. McLeod

    Of course we can accept undocumented immigrants into our melting pot. After all, we had the Carter amnesty (which somehow failed to solve the problem). Basically, the political leadership of both parties for the last 35 years has signaled that illegal immigrants are welcome to flout U.S. law, and if they can manage to stay long enough, they will be legitimized.

    1. SHG Post author

      There is something to be said for that. After decades of being a contributing, taxpaying member of American society, they’ve done more to earn their acceptance here than someone who filled out a form. At some point, slavish adherence to formalitities has to give way to more practical realities. And lest we get as self-righteous as the SJWs, who amongst us hasn’t flouted U.S. law on occasion?

      1. B. McLeod

        I cannot recall ever having flouted a U.S. law. It also strikes me as poor policy to specially reward those who have violated laws for the longest time. If we are going to have open borders, we should just repeal immigration laws, rather than, every several decades, simply legitimizing however many people have violated them.

        1. SHG Post author

          Three felonies a day. Your poor recall doesn’t make you immune. There is a wide gap between open borders and addressing inequities after people have long established law-abiding, productive, taxpaying lives. Where the line should be is what immigration reform should focus on.

    1. SHG Post author

      When the only choice offered is between extreme and dangerous positions, it invariably ends poorly. The last line is a terrible option, but one Americans will prefer to the alternative of sanctuary.

  2. DHMCarver

    “To be clear, being an undocumented alien isn’t a crime. That, alone, doesn’t make them criminals. Just undocumented.” This “nuance” is often lost in the rhetoric in this debate, especially the further right one moves on the spectrum — glad to see this in your discussion.

    1. SHG Post author

      The louder the shouting, the less nuance can be heard. The left doesn’t grasp that there is law and they failed to comply with it, which doesn’t make them great humanitarians. The right doesn’t grasp that the failure to comply isn’t a crime, just a failure to comply, which doesn’t make them hardened criminals. Nobody wants to hear nuance that doesn’t confirm their bias.

      1. Cashew

        If the nuance doesn’t confirm my bias then it’s useless and must be eradicated. It is inconceivable that I might be wrong about something.

  3. Patrick Maupin

    What do you think all those new border agents were doing under Obama?

    Well, they weren’t hassling my wife, and now they are. Anecdote isn’t the singular form of data, so I dunno if we got a couple of special characters, or if they’re just feeling their oats now that they’re feeling the love from Trump.

    Yesterday, coming in from England, one of them threatened to confiscate her green card because “I can’t tell that’s you from the picture” and another one took her into the back room for 45 minutes to pretend like they couldn’t tell it was her, and impress on her that she really, really, really ought to get one of the new green cards that only last 10 years, because $455 or something.

  4. Frank Miceli

    You say, “To be clear, being an undocumented alien isn’t a crime. That, alone, doesn’t make them criminals. Just undocumented.” To clarify, anyone who willfully enters the country illegally, termed “improper entry,” has committed a criminal act, punishable, theoretically, by incarceration.

    In 2010, US Attorneys accepted the referral of 43, 548 persons charged with improper entry. 1095 were successfully prosecuted. As you suggest, relatively few go to jail. Nevertheless, 42,406 cases were disposed of by US magistrates, essentially all as petty misdemeanors–a criminal offense, albeit the least serious one, with the remedy readily at hand being deportation. Only 47 cases were declined by the US Attorneys after referral; these are slam-dunk cases.

    1. SHG Post author

      So you’re either not a lawyer or the worst lawyer ever, as you fail to distinguish such an obvious difference as status and conduct under 8 USC § 1325. If you’re not up to the level of discussion here, then don’t comment or go to reddit.

  5. Matthew S Wideman

    It is getting harder to have an opinion based in reality. I often ostracize myself at parties by saying we should have a strong border and a healthy knowledge of who is in our country. I often get But, I immediately disappoint the “right wing” people by advocating a sensible policy for those who are here with families and jobs. I sometimes feel like I am all alone at these parties…I just listen to myself talk…

    1. SHG Post author

      The days of reasonable discourse at parties are gone. Have a drink, smile, bite your tongue. No one appreciates it anymore.

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