This Monday, I wrote an op/ed piece for the Baltimore Sun. The column, posted in Koulflo Memo, took a critical look at the criminal alien program. The piece has drawn some critical response, which I don’t mind, expect and sometimes enjoy. It is disturbing, however, to see responses dumb down and distort aspects of an important policy debate, and project silly personalized attacks. For example, how to respond to such comments as
“More of the same from the lying fools who want open borders. LIES LIES and more LIES form the open border anarchicts groups.”
Of the emails and comments I received, even those who tread beyond bumper sticker cliches, almost all gloss over the realities of government policy that: places civil law offenders into a criminal law process; that unlawfully conflates federal and local law enforcement; that creates needless obstacles for local law enforcement to do their job, particularly in Latino and other high-immigrant communities; and that condones racial profiling.
The responses deal with none of these issues, but instead reduce the author’s argument to being pro-illegal alien; pro open borders; and btw, the author is “so stupid” as to not understand that as the term “illegal alien” infers, these people are criminals.
Consider a Letter to the Editor in today’s Sun which has nothing to do with the topic I wrote about, and which says
He implies that Illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in our country, work in our businesses and eat up our taxpayer dollars with education for their children, hospital and doctor coverage paid by our tax dollars, and when caught they should not be sent back to their home country. What other country would allow illegal immigrants to do this?
I am sure that if the new health care bill is passed that he would want them to be included. What about our welfare and Social Security benefits? An illegal alien is a criminal by definition. Does he want them included also?
Again, my column about ICE ACCESS/ CAP had nothing to do with the issues raised by this letter to the editor. The column has to do with fair process, whether CAP treats immigrants fairly. I suggest that CAP does not treat immigrants fairly and examine CAP’s shortcomings.
So, to my critics of immigrant rights, why not dispute the points raised; why not discuss and defend CAP? Let’s discuss CAP, or Secure Communities or one of the other of the 14 localized immigration enforcement measures under ICE ACCESS. It is a worthy debate. NO need to go after open borders here. Plenty of meat in CAP for us to bear our differences.
Other responses suggest I did not distinguish between legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants and that “illegal aliens” have no right to drive and were they pulled over, should be deported because they are “criminals.”
Indeed, some important points are raised here. 1) The CAP program, and secure communities and 287(g) make all foreigners– lawful and undocumented immigrants as well as tourists and temporary workers– susceptible to the whims of the arresting officers and criminal process.
Under CAP, any foreigner can be dragged into the criminal process and the removal process if 1) they have an immigration history– any infraction, however minor– such as an expired visa, and 2) any previous exposure to the criminal justice process– however minor, expunged, or long ago.
Consider the case on one man, a lawful permanent resident, who read the article and said it resonated with his recent experiences. About 25 years ago, as a teenager, he was in receipt of am 8-track player (worth about $50) which, he says, a friend of his had stolen and then sold to him. This man was charged at the time but his record has long since been expunged. Now he finds himself in deportation proceedings, after leading a lawful existing into middle age. Such are the sort of decent and law abiding folks who whose lives are being overturned by CAP and other draconian immigration programs.
Further, the issue of whether local police have the authority to arrest and then hold and turn somebody over to ICE ostensibly because the local police suspect that person’s immigration papers may not be in order, ought to raise a lot of red flags in immigrant communities as well as among local law enforcement. The well documented result is that immigrant communities (lawful and unauthorized) become underserved by local police. They can become havens for crime because of the disincentives now associated with calling local police.
The larger issues have to do with the unfortunate narrative that dumbs down a discussion about local law enforcement of federal immigration law to over simplified and dishonest questions about open/closed borders and whether unauthorized immigrants are criminals.
The issue of open borders has to do with larger and more abstract discussions about sovereignty. Opposing CAP has nothing to do with being for open borders. The narrative about “criminal aliens” or whether unauthorized immigrants are criminals is even more distressing because it has little to do with the realities of the law. We are dealing– for the most part– with civil laws, not criminal law. The label of “criminal is misleading.” The suggestion that unauthorized immigrants = criminal aliens is even more distressing because it plays with our collective imagination.
Metaphors of criminality replace the rather benign civil offense of being in the country without authorization. It also ignores the realities of why most unauthorized immigrants come to this country, which is for a better life. It stigmatizes and dehumanizes human beings who lead basically lawful lives.
Any readers of this post jaywalk recently, or litter, or fail to stop completely at a stop sign? “illegal walkers? drivers? perspective people, please!