The same day Americans were confronted with the shocking photograph of an El Salvadoran migrant and his 2-year-old daughter dead in the Rio Grande, drowned as they attempted to come to the U.S. illegally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she wants to change the law so that coming to the United States illegally will no longer be a crime, merely a civil offense.
“We should not be criminalizing mamas and babies trying to flee violence at home or trying to build a better future. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that is in line with our values, creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants including our DREAMers, and protects our borders,” Warren told the HuffPost.
Crossing the border illegally is currently a misdemeanor. However, other activities like harboring illegal immigrants and working in the U.S. off the books or under a false ID are felonies that are all but unavoidable once someone enters the country illegally.
Border security advocates argue that lax American laws and our broken asylum system are responsible for encouraging Central American families to expose their children to the risks of a dangerous, 1,000-mile trek to the U.S. border. Warren’s approach would appear to increase incentives to take the risks that all-too-often result in illness and death for these immigrant children.
“Daily, our agents save somebody’s life,” deputy chief for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Laredo sector Joel Martinez said in a recent interview. “I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that when we get some of these people, they are pretty bad off as far as dehydration and everything else. I mean, they’re exhausted, and they barely make that swim across the river. So when our agents get them, they’re in pretty bad shape.”
Warren’s rejection of criminal penalties for illegal immigration echoes her party’s position on the detention facilities run by the federal government at the southern border. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls them “concentration camps” because of over-crowded conditions, yet Democrats’ simultaneously refuse to support more funding to add space, beds, bathrooms, etc.
On Wednesday, progressives led a walk out of employees at the online shopping site Wayfair over plans to sell beds to a contractor working for the Department of Health and Human Services for immigrant children and families.
“Warren’s fans in the mainstream media keep presenting her as a serious policy wonk, but this is not a serious policy plan,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told InsideSources. “It is just misleading hyperbole and pandering pablum. Apparently, her plan is to allow any mama or baby, or anyone pretending to be a mama with baby, to waltz into the U.S. because they want a better future. Who in the world doesn’t? But what about the future for Americans?
“The values she represents with this plan are the values of employers who want workers to earn less. They’re the values of politicians who want us to have worse schools, huge tax bills, more multiculturalism, and less safety and security in their communities. Warren’s plan is not a solution and would only inspire more illegal immigration and wipe out our borders,” Vaughan said.
If, as Sen. Warren and her fellow progressives argue, it’s wrong to turn away people at the border; and it’s wrong to detain them in the available facilities; and it’s wrong to fund additional beds and facilities to care for these immigrant families; and it’s wrong to arrest them for crossing illegally, then the only remaining alternative is to allow them to enter the U.S. at will.
Supporters of decriminalization say that’s not true, that they support giving people court dates and hearings before immigration judges. Immigrant advocates dispute data from border officials that most illegal immigrants given such court dates never show up.
However, they also oppose deporting people who’ve been ordered to leave the country after their hearing before a judge. So once again, if it’s wrong to detain them, and it’s wrong to deport them for ignoring the immigration judge’s order–what’s the alternative, other than allowing everyone to stay?
This is not a popular idea among American voters.
A majority, 54 percent, say America is doing too little to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the country, while just 16 percent believe we are doing too much.
In March, just 23 percent of Americans said they wanted to see an increase in legal immigration–and that number is a record high. Meanwhile, 34 percent said they want fewer legal immigrants allowed into the U.S. About 1 million people legally immigrate to the U.S. each year, and the U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 44.4 million in 2017.
According to Gallup, 23 percent of Americans say immigration is their top political issue today, the highest level ever recorded. The only problem voters rated higher is “government” (aka “I hate Trump”) at 26 percent.
Should a Democrat like Sen. Warren, who has a realistic chance of being their party’s nominee, embrace a radical position (decriminalizing illegal immigration and opposing deportations for people ordered out of the country) on such a hot-button issue?
It may be a smart strategy in the primary, but will it work in November 2020?