The Folly of À La Carte Immigration Enforcement


January 8, 2024

By Brian Lonergan

As United States citizens in good standing, we are expected to comply with the laws of our country without exception. We cannot, for example, choose to obey laws requiring hunting licenses but then choose not to obey laws against driving while intoxicated. We ignore established laws at our own peril, under threat of fines and imprisonment.

When it comes to enforcing the laws, however, there is no such pressure on our political leaders. Nowhere is this more evident than in immigration law. Since the mid-20th century, our elites in government have viewed immigration law as an à la carte menu. Immigration laws that benefit them and their political agenda are to be enforced. Those that don’t are simply ignored. It is now to the point that the Biden administration appears to govern at the pleasure of radical anti-borders activist groups, not the American people.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the current immigration law. It clearly spells out how immigration into the U.S. is to be conducted and specifies that anyone crossing the border without the permission of the U.S. government is committing a misdemeanor crime called “Improper Entry by Alien.” In 2023 alone Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 3.2 million illegal alien encounters, yet few, if any, are being charged with Improper Entry by Alien. Why? Because having limitless numbers of illegal aliens living in the United States advances the political goals of the Biden White House and its benefactors.

The administration also engages in deception to hide the disaster it has caused. With a straight face, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas continues to insist that the border is secure, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then, as Biden’s job approval rating dipped into the basement, he cynically announced the construction of a tiny section of border wall as a political fig leaf.

Given the flagrant lawlessness of the White House, surely another part of our government can hold them accountable, right? While the Supreme Court has demonstrated a willingness to oppose the Biden immigration agenda on select issues, the congressional check on executive immigration power has proven mostly impotent. Last October, eight Republican House members crossed party lines to vote against a measure to impeach Mayorkas, a goal of border hawks in Congress for the last three years. What motivation is there for Team Biden to enforce the law when its failure to do so produces no consequences?

America’s political leaders are obligated to enforce all the laws on the menu, whether they like them or not.

This selective enforcement of the law is even worse at the local and state levels. Sanctuary mayors, governors, and sheriffs pick and choose with impunity which laws they want to follow. The Constitution places federal law on matters such as immigration as the “supreme law of the land,” yet these sanctuary politicians brazenly defy federal immigration authorities, even on those increasingly rare occasions when the feds actually attempt to deport immigration violators. When the Trump administration tied compliance with federal immigration law to the ability to receive federal law enforcement grants, the cities found judges to block the effort.   

This daring disregard of federal law, however, is conditional and based on partisan ideology. New Mexico is a loud and proud sanctuary state, committed to harboring illegal aliens. Yet when more than half of the state’s 33 counties passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions in 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham would have none of it.

“A few law enforcement officers in this state have been making noise about how they won’t enforce gun safety measures because they don’t like them,” she fumed on Twitter. “That’s not how laws work, of course, and it’s not how oaths of office work either.”

The lack of self-awareness is stunning. To date, the governor has made no effort to overturn New Mexico’s immigration sanctuary status or given any lectures to pro-sanctuary members of her state legislature on “how laws work.” Of course, the Second Amendment enshrines the fundamental right of self-defense—against both crime and tyranny—while foreign nationals have no fundamental right to enter the United States without authorization.

Politicians in executive offices are given a broad range of powers to sign orders, make declarations, and influence legislation. What they cannot do is openly defy laws because those laws do not conform to their own political preferences. À la carte is a great concept for fine dining, but one that has no place in law enforcement. America’s political leaders are obligated to enforce all the laws on the menu, whether they like them or not.

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in Washington, D.C, and co-host of IRLI’s “No Border, No Country” podcast.

Also published at Chronicles, January 8, 2023.

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