While people often let their emotions guide their actions, the same is not a good idea when it comes to law enforcement. When common sense, popular opinion and the law are against them, the open borders movement and their fellow travelers in the media are not above playing their last remaining card: histrionic appeals to the emotions of the American people to influence immigration policy. This should be rejected as the desperate gimmickry that it is.
The dawn of the Trump era saw a spike of emotional pleadings in immigration news coverage. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossings, such appeals have become omnipresent. A quick online search of immigration news stories reveals a steady, recurring motif: adorable young children ripped from the arms of their illegal alien parents by cold-hearted federal immigration agents. Predictably, this narrative ignores the complexity of the immigration issue and reduces it to its most daft interpretation.
This agenda was on display at a recent congressional hearing, where Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) grilled DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on the zero tolerance policy. After accusing President Trump of ordering Nielsen to “separate parents from children when they cross into the United States as a way to deter illegal immigration,” Harris demanded that Nielsen explain the purportedly mean-spirited policy.
“What we will be doing is prosecuting parents who have broken the law, just as we do every day in the United States of America,” Nielsen replied.
While it’s an open secret in Washington that Harris is fortifying her liberal bona fides in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, her rhetoric at the hearing provokes some substantial questions. Should illegal aliens be exempt from federal immigration law simply because they have children? Are U.S. citizens with children exempt from federal laws as well, and if not, why not?
The Harris model suggests that illegal aliens be granted extra-constitutional rights. They should have immunity from our federal immigration laws, ostensibly because separating them from their children would be tantamount to a hate crime. But why stop at immigration laws? To be convicted of armed robbery would also separate aliens from their children. Harris would presumably exempt them from the law on that offense as well. The logic, or lack thereof, here can be taken to absurd levels. If Harris — a rising star in her party — wants to make this the pillar of her nascent presidential campaign, then President Trump’s second term is all but secured.
To be sure, American citizens who commit crimes are not given such leniency, nor should they receive it. When former NFL quarterback Michael Vick served a 23-month sentence in prison on dogfighting charges, he was separated from his two young daughters and a fiancée as well as a son from a previous marriage. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik pled guilty to felony tax and false statement charges in 2009. He was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison and he was forced apart from his two young daughters and a wife. At no time did Harris or any other politician suggest that either Vick or Kerik should walk free because to enforce the law would result in their families being torn apart and their children separated from their fathers.
While the junior senator from California got the viral clip she wanted by berating Nielsen, even Harris must know that what she advocates is politically toxic. Why? Perhaps because Americans of all colors and faiths aspire to the idea that they have the right to be treated equally under the law. The left’s embrace of illegal immigration started as a cynical voter registration drive and now threatens to turn the concept of “with liberty and justice for all” on its head. The law must be enforced uniformly, not arbitrarily based on group identity, emotionalism or political expediency. Now that’s something to get emotional about.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.
Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Emotion shouldn't serve as the basis for immigration law, The Hill, May 27, 2018