Migrants run from tear gas launched by U.S. agents, amid photojournalists covering the Mexico-U.S. border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Sometimes an interesting thing happens when I publish my daily “What Are We Talking About Here.” It somehow begins to circulate online in circles that enjoy pouncing on my Twitter and Facebook feeds and blowing up the comments section, usually in a negative way.
Such was the case when I wrote about U.S. agents using tear gas against men, women, and children at the U.S. and Mexico border on Sunday.
Usually it follows this pattern:
“Hey Ron, but what about this and what about that?”
Then, “those people are breaking the law, or they are a bunch of criminals, or what they’re doing is illegal. Therefore, they deserve everything that is happening to them.”
Next, “Ron — you’re stupid.”
Finally, “Ron — you’re stupid and you’re an idiot.”
Typically, I don’t respond, but I thought I’d make an exception this time, because I believe it’s at the very heart of why things are deteriorating so much right now.
Let’s start with the premise that immigration policy in the U.S. is currently broken and dysfunctional. I would agree with that wholeheartedly. I would also agree that the system has been abused in the past and needs to be overhauled. So far, I hope that most of us are on the same page.
So what we’re really talking about is methodology. How, when, and why should we allow people to enter the United States? This, I think is a much more interesting question.
Since at least WWII, the U.S. has had an official, legal process that evaluates whether a foreign person should be allowed to enter and live in the country. The real question is, do harsh deterrents work as an immigration policy?
This is where you need a clear policy that applies across the board. If only we had such a thing.
Oh wait, we do. It’s called the law. I get it if you disagree with the law, but there is a law on the books.
A few things are pretty clear.
As University of California lawyer and legal scholar Teri Kanefield pointed on Twitter, it’s not legal for the United States to launch a chemical agent into a bordering country, and there is a clearly defined asylum process already on the books.
When an asylum seeker reaches the border of the United States, even without any documents, they legally have several options: They can present themselves for admission at a port of entry, and claim asylum or “fear of persecution,” or they can enter illegally and present themselves to an official as quickly as possible and claim asylum or “fear of persecution.”
They then are legally entitled to a hearing to determine if they are eligible for asylum status. Therefore, when migrants “rush” to the border (if their intent is to seek asylum) they are within their rights.
So to all the people who are berating me online that these people should just follow the law, I would offer that two wrongs don’t make a right. If we expect immigrants to abide by the law, shouldn’t we expect the same of ourselves?
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