The Immigration Inversion Paints Lawbreakers As Victims


December 18, 2023

By Matt O’Brien

he Los Angeles Times recently ran an article titled “Everything’s like a gamble: U.S. Immigration Policies Leave Lives in Limbo.” It tells the story of two illegal alien twins, Judith and Janette Ortiz. As toddlers, the twins were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

Eventually, they both applied for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In order to avoid causing confusion at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the twins filed their application forms 24 hours apart. Janette’s petition was approved. Judith’s petition was still pending when a federal judge enjoined the approval of any further DACA applications because the program was illegal. It currently remains unadjudicated.

According to the Times story, the twins’ plight is persuasive evidence that American immigration policies are patently unfair. “Few who work in immigration law are surprised by the story; the capriciousness of America’s broken immigration system seems to be the rule, not the exception,” the article reads.

In reality, the representations being made in the LA Times are patently false. They rest upon a moral inversion that portrays perpetrators as victims. And they imply that, as a matter of course, immigration lawbreakers should get the exact same results as people who have obeyed our laws and waited years to come to the United States.

As the Supreme Court noted in Ekiu v. U.S., the United States, as a sovereign nation, is entitled to set its own immigration policies. And the system that we have set up mandates that people who wish to become Americans must enter our country lawfully, obtain permanent resident status, and live here as people of good moral character before we consider making them fellow Americans. That system has served us well for most of the history of our republic.

But the LA Times seems to believe that America’s interests are somehow best served by a complete reversal of this framework. In their preferred scenario, rather than the United States selecting foreigners and expecting them to prove their worthiness to receive the world’s ultimate gift – U.S. citizenship and a life in the world’s greatest country – foreigners who wish to reside in the U.S. should select us. Then, America should thank them for gracing us with their presence and reward them for their flagrant disregard of our laws with rights to full participation in the American polity.

The American people have, yet again, fallen prey to the caprices of elected leaders who continue to prioritize the interests of foreign nationals over those of U.S. citizens by consistently refusing to enforce the immigration laws which they are constitutionally bound to uphold. 

These backwards arguments make a complete mockery of the rule of law. They maintain that when foreign nationals commit the crime of improper entry by an alien, if they somehow manage to evade the authorities, it becomes unjust to deprive them of the benefits of their unlawful conduct. These arguments are specious and would never be tolerated in any other legal domain. Imagine a drug kingpin going into court and arguing that the seizure of his mansion and his collection of Italian sports cars – all purchased with the ill-gotten proceeds of unlawful narcotics distribution – is some kind of infringement upon his right to the lawful enjoyment of property. He would be laughed out of the courtroom. Nevertheless, illegal aliens make exactly this type of argument on a daily basis.

Certainly, some people reading this will say, “It doesn’t seem reasonable to punish nice young ladies like Judith and Jannette Ortiz because their parents caused them to become illegal aliens.” But that argument falls apart on two separate counts.

First, while the Ortiz sisters may have been brought here as toddlers, they’re now young adults contemplating careers and potential military service. Age is no longer a defense. They’re fully aware that they are residing in here in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. And there is nothing stopping them from leaving the United States and relocating to someplace where they do have authorization to live and work. As a matter of personal preference, however, they don’t wish to follow this course of action.

Second, it presumes ejecting people from the United States, when they are clearly trespassing, is somehow punitive. But deportation is not punishment. Rather, it is simply a method of returning aliens, who are present in the United States without authorization, to the country where they possess full rights of citizenship. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed this in Fong Yue Ting v. U.S.Wong Wing v. U.S.Mahler v. Eby and other cases.

Nevertheless, paternalistic buffoons continue to argue that it is a travesty to deport people to any country with a lower standard of living than the United States, even as thousands of Americans continue to flock to vacation spots in places like Cabo San Lucas and Roatán. 

The theme song to the 1970s detective show “Baretta” sagely advises, “Don’t roll the dice, if you can’t pay the price.” The Ortiz family rolled the dice and, at least as far as Judith’s DACA application is concerned, they lost.

The reality, however, is that neither Judith or Janette Ortiz fell victim to any form of unpredictability or irrationality. Rather, the American people have, yet again, fallen prey to the caprices of elected leaders who continue to prioritize the interests of foreign nationals over those of U.S. citizens by consistently refusing to enforce the immigration laws which they are constitutionally bound to uphold. 

Matt O’Brien is the director investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the co-host of IRLI’s podcast “No Border, No Country.” Immediately prior to working for IRLI he served as an immigration judge. He has nearly 30 years of experience in immigration law and policy, having held numerous positions within the Department of Homeland Security.

Also published at Daily Caller, December 18, 2023.

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