Our Statue of Liberty Is Really More of a 'Statue of Limitations'

Now that peace appears to be at hand in the Korean peninsula, ISIS is all but eradicated, and unemployment has fallen to staggeringly low rates – including record lows for women and persons of color – the NeverTrumps on both the left and the right are working overtime to identify a new atrocity they can attribute to the president.  Donald Trump's latest "sin" is "kidnapping children" – i.e., separating them from their Persons Here Illegally (PHI) parents who cross the southern border into the United States illegally, which the president's haters claim creates the 21st-century version of Hitler's concentration camps.  For instance, ex-CIA director Michael Hayden in a June 16 tweet likened detention centers for PHI children to Auschwitz and reiterated the comparison in a CNN interview four days later.  On June 22, MSNBC's Donny Deutsch extended the vilification to Trump voters: "if you vote for Donald Trump ... then you are standing at the border, like Nazis."

First, some perspective: U.S. immigration law establishes that entering or re-entering the United States without lawful authorization is a crime (Title 8, Section 1325 of the U.S. Code).  Though there is no federal law specifically requiring that children be separated from their parents at the border, if illegal entry is treated as the crime that it is, then separating PHI parents and children at the border is not at all different under the law from U.S. citizen muggers, bank-robbers, and rapists who are not allowed to have their children by their side in jail.

President Trump's two most recent predecessors, Barack Obama and, before him, George W. Bush, also separated PHI parents and children, but typically in the case of illegal re-entrants rather than first-time offenders.  Also, Obama eventually stopped that practice altogether, late into his presidency, focusing instead on deporting hardened PHI criminals.

As for the aforementioned first-time offenders, Presidents Bush and Obama largely dealt with them via civil law measures, thereby allowing families to remain together at detention centers.  But the Trump administration, in an effort to sharply curb illegal entry, began enforcing the criminal sanctions under our law on improper entry by an alien, which naturally requires separation of families, as we do not jail children with their lawbreaking parents (even in the case of Americans).  The administration likely believed that this would also serve as a deterrent to prevent families from attempting to enter illegally in the first place.  Moreover, the administration cited instances whereby the "parents" and "children" in question are not really related at all, but rather consist of adult drug- and sex-traffickers and their minor victims who comply under threat with their captors by pretending to be these criminals' offspring, lest they suffer dire and even fatal consequences.

Nonetheless, there was tremendous and widespread backlash against the administration's policy.

That just about everyone on the left immediately condemned the president is no big deal, because even if he found a cure for cancer, they'd insist there was nothing humanitarian about it, and perhaps he owns an interest in the company that manufactures the healing medicine.  But among Republicans, with whom Trump recently has enjoyed a belated honeymoon, barely half supported his child separation measures.

Far too many Trump critics make the leap that if separating families at the border is bad policy, then we ought to simply ignore the illegal crossings altogether.  The larger issue worth discussing extensively that is connected to child separation is why asylum applications from Central America have skyrocketed.  There is an alarming pandemic of violence in the so-called Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – such that so many people would do just about anything to leave there.  That includes the risk of imprisonment in the United States, even if the harsh deterrent of separation from their children is possible and even likely.  Simply put, those hotbeds of violence are so abominable that many parents consider it far worse to remain there together with their children than to give them a safer environment – which nowhere resembles a concentration camp – in the United States.

So what are we Americans to do?  Should we simply open our doors to the victims of all countries facing such deadly danger?  Should we allow them to pour into the United States by the millions, even if all their tales of woe were true (which is not the case)?

An excerpt from my most recent book, Stop Calling Them "Immigrants," explains this:

The Open Borderists are not bad people.  In fact, their generosity and love for their fellow men and women is admirable.  But their idea of open borders, however well-intentioned, is reckless and dangerous.  Consider the example of 'overloading the boat' to illustrate: suppose there is a small boat at sea that holds about 50 people at the most, and there are already 10 on board.  A much larger ship nearby has sunk: its panicked passengers jumped overboard and are desperately trying to stay afloat and survive.  As the smaller boat approaches, its crew notices there are about 300 people in the water. Of course, they would like to save all of them, but they simply cannot.  Their own boat will only hold about 40 more people; any more and that boat would sink too.  Taken to its logical conclusion, that's what would happen with open borders.

That book's cover contains the image of a sketch of the Statue of Liberty holding a "STOP" sign rather than a torch and saying: "Welcome to the United States – may I see your passport, please?"  In fact, I call her the "Statue of Limitations."

The answer does not have to be a binary choice of standing by idly while millions of hapless victims languish in fear and death in their home countries or admitting them into the United States en masse and thus causing the "boat" to capsize.  Instead, President Trump should call upon the entire world to mobilize and work to improve conditions in those countries so that those people would not have the need to leave in the first place.  And for those who would retort: "Why should we impose our will on other countries?  Are we the world's policeman?," I say: If we also want to be the world's caretaker, then yes, we are.

Constantinos E. Scaros has practiced, taught, and written about immigration law.  His latest book is Stop Calling Them "Immigrants" and is available in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.

Now that peace appears to be at hand in the Korean peninsula, ISIS is all but eradicated, and unemployment has fallen to staggeringly low rates – including record lows for women and persons of color – the NeverTrumps on both the left and the right are working overtime to identify a new atrocity they can attribute to the president.  Donald Trump's latest "sin" is "kidnapping children" – i.e., separating them from their Persons Here Illegally (PHI) parents who cross the southern border into the United States illegally, which the president's haters claim creates the 21st-century version of Hitler's concentration camps.  For instance, ex-CIA director Michael Hayden in a June 16 tweet likened detention centers for PHI children to Auschwitz and reiterated the comparison in a CNN interview four days later.  On June 22, MSNBC's Donny Deutsch extended the vilification to Trump voters: "if you vote for Donald Trump ... then you are standing at the border, like Nazis."

First, some perspective: U.S. immigration law establishes that entering or re-entering the United States without lawful authorization is a crime (Title 8, Section 1325 of the U.S. Code).  Though there is no federal law specifically requiring that children be separated from their parents at the border, if illegal entry is treated as the crime that it is, then separating PHI parents and children at the border is not at all different under the law from U.S. citizen muggers, bank-robbers, and rapists who are not allowed to have their children by their side in jail.

President Trump's two most recent predecessors, Barack Obama and, before him, George W. Bush, also separated PHI parents and children, but typically in the case of illegal re-entrants rather than first-time offenders.  Also, Obama eventually stopped that practice altogether, late into his presidency, focusing instead on deporting hardened PHI criminals.

As for the aforementioned first-time offenders, Presidents Bush and Obama largely dealt with them via civil law measures, thereby allowing families to remain together at detention centers.  But the Trump administration, in an effort to sharply curb illegal entry, began enforcing the criminal sanctions under our law on improper entry by an alien, which naturally requires separation of families, as we do not jail children with their lawbreaking parents (even in the case of Americans).  The administration likely believed that this would also serve as a deterrent to prevent families from attempting to enter illegally in the first place.  Moreover, the administration cited instances whereby the "parents" and "children" in question are not really related at all, but rather consist of adult drug- and sex-traffickers and their minor victims who comply under threat with their captors by pretending to be these criminals' offspring, lest they suffer dire and even fatal consequences.

Nonetheless, there was tremendous and widespread backlash against the administration's policy.

That just about everyone on the left immediately condemned the president is no big deal, because even if he found a cure for cancer, they'd insist there was nothing humanitarian about it, and perhaps he owns an interest in the company that manufactures the healing medicine.  But among Republicans, with whom Trump recently has enjoyed a belated honeymoon, barely half supported his child separation measures.

Far too many Trump critics make the leap that if separating families at the border is bad policy, then we ought to simply ignore the illegal crossings altogether.  The larger issue worth discussing extensively that is connected to child separation is why asylum applications from Central America have skyrocketed.  There is an alarming pandemic of violence in the so-called Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – such that so many people would do just about anything to leave there.  That includes the risk of imprisonment in the United States, even if the harsh deterrent of separation from their children is possible and even likely.  Simply put, those hotbeds of violence are so abominable that many parents consider it far worse to remain there together with their children than to give them a safer environment – which nowhere resembles a concentration camp – in the United States.

So what are we Americans to do?  Should we simply open our doors to the victims of all countries facing such deadly danger?  Should we allow them to pour into the United States by the millions, even if all their tales of woe were true (which is not the case)?

An excerpt from my most recent book, Stop Calling Them "Immigrants," explains this:

The Open Borderists are not bad people.  In fact, their generosity and love for their fellow men and women is admirable.  But their idea of open borders, however well-intentioned, is reckless and dangerous.  Consider the example of 'overloading the boat' to illustrate: suppose there is a small boat at sea that holds about 50 people at the most, and there are already 10 on board.  A much larger ship nearby has sunk: its panicked passengers jumped overboard and are desperately trying to stay afloat and survive.  As the smaller boat approaches, its crew notices there are about 300 people in the water. Of course, they would like to save all of them, but they simply cannot.  Their own boat will only hold about 40 more people; any more and that boat would sink too.  Taken to its logical conclusion, that's what would happen with open borders.

That book's cover contains the image of a sketch of the Statue of Liberty holding a "STOP" sign rather than a torch and saying: "Welcome to the United States – may I see your passport, please?"  In fact, I call her the "Statue of Limitations."

The answer does not have to be a binary choice of standing by idly while millions of hapless victims languish in fear and death in their home countries or admitting them into the United States en masse and thus causing the "boat" to capsize.  Instead, President Trump should call upon the entire world to mobilize and work to improve conditions in those countries so that those people would not have the need to leave in the first place.  And for those who would retort: "Why should we impose our will on other countries?  Are we the world's policeman?," I say: If we also want to be the world's caretaker, then yes, we are.

Constantinos E. Scaros has practiced, taught, and written about immigration law.  His latest book is Stop Calling Them "Immigrants" and is available in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.