SAN DIEGO – How absurd has the immigration debate become? This absurd: It is now considered controversial when people simply tell the truth.
As when the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement explains the cold reality that anyone in the United States without the proper legal documents “should be concerned” about being apprehended and deported.
That’s blunt talk all right, but it also happens to be accurate. These people broke the law. Shouldn’t they be worried about being caught by law enforcement? This is the problem with the pro-immigrant left. They live in their own world. Rather than confront the unpleasant fact that they condone lawbreaking, they try to change terms like “illegal” to “undocumented” and construct this no-fault fantasyland where no one did anything wrong.
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Or when activists storm the Texas state capitol in Austin holding signs declaring “I am illegal,” and some people complain that the protesters are taunting them by emphasizing the fact that our borders aren’t secure.
Well, if these protesters are, in fact, in the country illegally, what’s wrong with them tweaking Americans a little by broadcasting it? It may harm their prospects at achieving immigration reform, but it doesn’t really harm Americans. The bigger worry is that there are illegal immigrants in this country, and that our attempts to keep them out have failed so miserably – and will always fall short as long as Americans keep employing them.
How much trouble can you possibly get into by just telling the truth? Take it from me, given my line of work, the answer is: A whole bunch.
Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, recently found that out. He is getting unjustly hammered for simply stating, while testifying before Congress, that all illegal immigrants should be afraid of being deported.
That’s just too much common sense for Washington to handle, and so Homan was roundly criticized by activists and Democratic lawmakers. Later, during an interview with ABC News, he insisted: “I have zero regrets. It needed to be said. If you choose to enter this country illegally, which is a crime, you should be concerned. You violated a law in this country.”
Well, yes and no. I like the “needed to be said” part. There is too much politeness in the immigration debate. People should speak plainly.
But Homan is wrong about how entering the country without authorization amounts to a “crime.” As I was told years ago by no less an informed source than former ICE Director John Morton, immigration law is largely founded on civil statutes. So, contrary to popular belief – unless they’re smuggling someone or something, or coming back after having been removed before – those who come into this country uninvited have usually not committed a crime.
Homan redeemed himself when he said this: “I’ll tell you, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be part of this country and not respect its laws.”
Bravo. That’s another problem with the pro-immigrant left. They teach illegal immigrants to demand all the benefits of living freely in the United States while accepting none of the responsibilities that come with it.
Meanwhile, in Texas, it is pro-immigrant activists who are in hot water for telling the truth. After they confronted legislators over a law that would prohibit cities from declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants, things quickly got ugly. Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi called ICE on the mostly Latino group of protesters because, he said in a statement, they were chanting and holding signs that read: “I am illegal and here to stay.”
Oh, grow up. After I wrote a column about the incident, I heard from an irate reader who said that signs like that, and symbols like the Mexican flag, are incendiary because they amount to protesters “rubbing our noses” in the fact that they’re here and there is not much Americans can do about it. Even if we deport them, they’ll often come back – especially if their spouses and children are caught on this side of the border.
Of course, as I mentioned, there is one surefire way to get rid of illegal immigrants: Stop hiring them, and do your own chores. For many Americans, though, this is a nuclear option they won’t even allow themselves to contemplate.
The point is, let’s not get distracted and start attacking each other for telling the truth. Instead of bashing people for sharing an unpleasant reality, we should change the reality.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com.