Border Control Not a Game

Press Releases

January 5, 2021

IRLI urges realistic reading of “arriving alien”

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the nation’s appellate immigration court, on an issue that will determine whether many illegal border-crossers will be sent back to Mexico to await their hearings, or will get to stay in the United States.

By law and current regulation, aliens who “arrive by land” illegally and are apprehended by federal immigration officers are returned to the contiguous territory they arrived from (usually Mexico) to await their removal hearings. But some aliens and their activist attorneys have claimed that, unless aliens are caught at the border itself, they are no longer “arriving” when apprehended, and should get to stay.

In its brief, IRLI shows that when an alien who illegally crossed a land border is captured en route to his or her final destination, that alien is rightfully classified as “arriving” under federal law. If, as the activists’ view would have it, aliens “arrive” when they cross the border, aliens who had taken more than a few steps into the United States before being apprehended could not logically be regarded as “arriving,” either, because they would have already “arrived” when they crossed the border.

“Border enforcement should not be turned into a game of ‘catch me if you can,’” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “If an illegal alien is still traveling when caught, every tool of statutory construction and every immigration-law precedent tells us that that alien is ‘arriving by land,’ and should be returned to Mexico just as aliens caught nearer the border are. We hope the Board correctly interprets the law and refuses to give a windfall to those aliens who manage to elude Border Patrol longer than others.”

The case is Amicus Invitation No. 20–04–12 (B.I.A.).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org

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