These two topics, to my surprise, have been raised as the first policy issues in the 6th District Congressional campaign, so let’s take a look.
A little history first:
In the modern political period our immigration policy started going wrong when LBJ’s conservative Texas Democrats, (soon to become Republicans) insisted on cheap farm labor, and when enough Americans couldn’t be found, turned their eyes from the law and insisted on opening the gates to illegal Mexican workers. Ronald Reagan’s GOP businessmen in California soon followed suit to get farm workers there, and not to be outdone, Democrats soon embraced LaRaza & Caesar Chavez; all seeking foreign workers for jobs Americans didn’t want or wouldn’t take, and the rush for more and more immigrants swelled.
Those “illegals” that were apprehended at our borders, by an understaffed Border Patrol soon jammed the immigration courts, also understaffed, and the insidious (and illegal) policy of “Catch & Release” began. Those arrested were told to go away, anywhere, don’t bother us, but come back when we seek you for a court hearing at a very unspecified date; oh, and don’t bother to check with us as to where you live.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, from many countries, but mainly Latin America, poured into the US, found jobs, sent for and raised families, became productive citizens, and even applied for legal citizenship. But many others did not.
Presidents of both parties turned a blind eye to these law violations; so did Congress.
In good economic times, no bother. In bad times, a lot of bother. Along comes the Recession of 2007-8-9-etc and suddenly there was a lot of bother. Rule of law advocates objected; far right nationalists objected; any candidate of any party out of office in that district objected, and then along came The Donald.
His first speech, announcing his candidacy, denounced illegal Mexicans as “rapists..thugs..criminals..and I’m sure some good people”..and it went down into the Swamp from there. Elected, in part on a pledge to clean up the Swamp, our President has, properly, denounced the Catch & Release approach and, as a cornerstone of his platform, insisted on building a Border Wall (“and, folks, Mexico is gonna pay for it.”) Mexico, as any sovereign nation would, strenuously objected to paying for any project being built in another country over which it had no control.
Congressman Andy Barr supports the ($20 Billion) Wall for security reasons. Democrat challenger Amy McGrath has called it “stupid." So far as the Wall is concerned, it is stupid, especially when we see 3 teenagers, stand on each others’ shoulders, scale the wall—even at its new height, or where it juts 50’ out into the Pacific, swim around it. Or tunnel under it, or find new ways to get through. (Or instead of paying smugglers thousands to get them into the US, pay several hundred for a plane ticket to Canada and walk across “the world’s longest, undefended border” which ICE says is becoming more and more the route of choice.)
And, BTW, the estimate of $20 Billion is the major part of the cost of our still UNdeclared war in Afghanistan—(see Notes on Due Process in last week’s blog)--money that could be used to take care of the veterans of that war, and those of Iraq, Korea, the Gulf War, etc., or maybe to improve Americans’ health or roads instead. Mexico is NOT going to pay for any American wall, and as an American taxpayer I don’t wish to either.
As to Catch & Release, the Trump administration has used this very policy itself. When federal courts insisted on an accounting of the ill-advised policy of separating families at the border, among the very early statistics Homeland Security reported to the court were a group of parents brought before immigration courts and then released into the USA without any restrictions on them and without any forwarding address given to the courts!!!
Catch & Release Lives. This, and the stupidity (not security) of the Border Wall is what we need to be debating, in hopes we might finally arrive at better, legal, and even humane immigration laws.
I'm just sayin'...