President Trump clearly does not understand the interplay between immigration and criminal law when he threatens to deport criminals. It is a crime to be in our country without permission from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). No exceptions. Let me explain.
It is a misdemeanor to enter our country without an inspection from an immigration authority. (8 U.S.C. §1325). The maximum punishment for this crime is 6 months in prison.
It is a felony to be here without permission after deportation (8 U.S.C. §1326). The max punishment for this crime is 2, 10 or 20 years, depending on criminal history. 20 years is pretty absurd to me, but it is the law.
That means that anyone present in the US without permission from INS has committed a crime. That's 11 million people. Here's a fact for you: 83% of America's top high school science students are the children of immigrants. But I digress.
People detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are either taken to Criminal Court or to Immigration Court. They are two very distinct and separate courts. Immigration Court belongs to the Executive Branch. Criminal Courts are part of the Judiciary. But, as discussed, an immigration violation is also a crime. So, INS agents decide whether or not to take a detained person to Criminal Court.
President Trump talks about rounding up "bad hombres," but his ICE agents are rounding up everyone, including those who have never been convicted of a crime. On Monday, a man living in Tucson for 19 years who had been deported 9 times, not once referred to criminal courts, was detained by INS agents as he was leaving a WIC location. WIC is a federally funded program that provides services for pregnant women and infants. The man was not creating a disturbance or stealing - just walking out of the WIC office - when he was detained. He was then referred to criminal court, charged with both a misdemeanor and felony, offered a plea to the misdemeanor, and convicted of that misdemeanor. That conviction ensures that he will have an even harder time getting permission to enter this country in the future.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not in favor of criminal behavior. But I am in favor of finding practical solutions to protect the sanctity of family and having a President who communicates his plan of action openly so we can have a dialogue about solutions. Mass deportation is not a solution. President Trump shouldn’t talk about “bad hombres” when what he is really talking about is every single undocumented person.
President Trump’s rhetoric intends to create a divide between people. He does so to excuse the fact that he is ripping families apart. That’s a poor excuse. Why not just admit that what he is doing is going to hurt our nation, but say he feels justified in doing it because he is going to enforce immigration law with no exceptions? Maybe he could then address how he intends to heal our nation. I prefer more open and honest dialogue from our President.