Aggravated Felonies And Aggravating Hysteria

One of the most moving, tearful expressions of deep concern came from César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández:

We are one week into the age of Trump. Two months remain before he takes office. A man who campaigned on a platform of rhetorical violence will soon occupy the highest political office in the United States. Already the effect has been unmistakable. Incidents of hateful attacks have risen sharply. Among the millions of people who fit a description that Trump ridiculed or demonized, fear has become palpable. I have seen the tears and heard the despair. I have felt the threat seep into my daily experience.

He doesn’t hate undocumented immigrants. He doesn’t hate illegals. He has a blog with the cutesy name crImmigration, and appears to want to be empathetic toward the fearful. So why is he doing everything possible to scare the shit out of them?

As a teacher and scholar of crimmigration law, I realized that over the next four years, migrants, our families, and our communities will not simply suffer from a continuation of the nightmare of the last eight years. In the age of Trump, the destructive, heavy-handed immigration law enforcement strategy favored by the Obama Administration will be merely the foundation on which to build. If a President Trump implements what candidate Trump promised—what he continues to promise—the fear that I have heard and seen, the fear that I feel, will become nothing short of terror on overdrive.

So every worst fear, every nightmare, is true? This comes from a prawf at University of Denver, and he says it is, he says it will become “nothing short of terror on overdrive.” And like all deeply passionate pedagogues, it’s his duty to indoctrinate his students to his beliefs, because there will be a section on the bar exam called “worst fears.”

In 1988, Congress enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act in response to hysteria over drug trafficking by immigrants. In there, it created a list of “aggravated felonies” that, if convicted, would give rise to deportation.* These weren’t the “illegals,” as the New York Times liked to call them, the people who crossed the border without authority, but people who came lawfully and were then convicted of crimes.

The list of “aggravated felonies” continued to expand, and included offenses that were neither aggravated nor felonies. Nobody gave a damn. Quite the contrary, whenever a non-citizen was arrested for a crime, God forbid a rape, screams were heard across the nation about how it’s possible this animal could even be here. And if the person wasn’t a lawful immigrant, oh boy.

Somebody did something about it.

Between 2009 and 2015 his administration has removed more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders, which doesn’t include the number of people who “self-deported” or were turned away and/or returned to their home country at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

According to governmental data, the Obama administration has deported more people than any other president’s administration in history.

In fact, they have deported more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century.

Yet, not a whimper from the peanut gallery. The problem with this wasn’t that convicted criminals were being deported, even when their offenses were trivial, but that people who came here as infants, built families, had jobs, paid taxes and contributed to society, were sent packing because of the inflexibility of the system and the restriction of §212(c) waivers of deportation. It proved absurdly overbearing in individual instances. A lot of individual instances, but not enough to do more than bring the occasional tear to an eye as collateral damage in the war on drugs by these awful illegals who were killing our children and raping our wimmenfolk.

At Fault Lines, Mario Machado, who practices criminal and immigration law (but without a cutesy mash name), has been debunking the wild claims made by Donald Trump, both his litany of horribles and the efficacy of his plans to fix them.  The TL;dr version is that it can’t be done, neither legally nor logistically, even if they wanted to one-up Obama in the “who deported the most aliens” category.

There is a distinction, completely lost on most people, between legal immigrants who are excludable because of their conviction for an aggravated felony and illegal undocumented immigrants. There are factual distinctions as well. A gangbanger with a green card who gets nailed for selling a few keys and murdering some other guy with tats on his eyeballs, after he raped a toddler, doesn’t get the same empathy as the migrant farm worker upon whom we depend for our roughage.

Then again, the voices of fear refuse to point out the distinctions because fostering hysteria about Trump matters more than calming irrational fears or being intellectually honest about what this country has been doing over the past eight years. The retort has been, “aren’t we allowed to take Trump at his word?” Only if you think one person’s ridiculousness justifies another’s. It can’t happen. It won’t happen. Whether he meant it or not, there will not be roaming bands of Crazy Joe Arpaio’s brownshirts rounding up everybody with an accent, darkish skin or a vowel at the end of their name.

But that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t there. Like most CDLs, I’ve heard from people who are scared of the cries of the apocalypse coming. I know Mario has as well. So we’re left with the choice, use the opportunity to make them even more angry and afraid or calm their fears so they can sleep at night, soothe their children, and have a nice day.

If you don’t hate immigrants, this is what you do, make their day better by explaining that the hysteria is reserved for teaching law students whom they’re supposed to hate. Immigrants have more important things to do, like feed their kids and be productive and law-abiding members of society, so their children can grow up and go to law school and learn about how their parents brought them to this nation.

that embraced the worst of its devils—devils that have always been part of our fabric, devils that have never been too far from the surface, devils that are always ready to fan vitriol. I realized that the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia that propelled Donald Trump to political prominence would soon become the centerpiece of federal policy.

There’s going to be a lot of therapy needed when this hysteria dies down.

*Immigration lingo is constantly shifting, because there are some in America who care more about coming up with new, cool, fake words, as if that matters more than what we actually do to people. The words used here are the commonly understood ones, like deportation, which is now officially called “removal,” as if that makes it more palatable.