October 31, 2023
By Brian Lonergan
It is obvious by now that the Biden Administration has a goal of keeping people living in or entering the country illegally in the United States, even those with criminal records. What most Americans don’t know, however, is the amount of chicanery this White House is engaging in to achieve that goal.
In July 2021, the administration launched an official effort both to stop removal proceedings against who have served in the military as well as to return those who had already been removed. The argument for this policy is that anyone willing to risk their life to serve the country should be allowed to remain in the United States. There are, in fact, some provisions of federal law that make serving in the military a path to citizenship.
However, that’s not the whole story. The people living in or entering the country illegally at issue here have overwhelmingly committed serious crimes, either while in the military or after their return to civilian life. Those who committed crimes while in the military were often dishonorably discharged. And both civilian and military crimes frequently prevent people living in or entering the country illegally from becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. Moreover, federal immigration law generally requires removal of people living in or entering the country illegally with significant felony convictions as well as certain misdemeanor convictions – without regard to prior military service.
This raises a number of questions. Is the White House knowingly trying to keep noncitizens who have committed felonies in the country? What types of crimes have these people committed? Aggravated assault, drug trafficking, armed robbery? It would seem the American public deserves answers to these important questions.
According to the Biden Administration, we don’t. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and his colleagues have been entirely unwilling to share even basic information about their immigrant/veterans policy.
Because of this, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DHS and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services in April, seeking the agencies’ policies regarding this initiative as well as information about any aliens actually returned from other countries under the program. Under FOIA, an agency is supposed to determine whether and to what extent it will comply with a request and provide relevant public records within 20 working days. However, more than five months after IRLI’s request was submitted, neither agency had produced anything in response to the request. Accordingly, IRLI filed a lawsuit to compel production of the requested information.
This from an administration that pledged “to bring transparency and truth back to the government to share the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.”
Why all the secrecy? The administration would be publicly embarrassed to reveal the details of violent crimes committed by the people living in or entering the country illegally they are trying to keep and relocate to American communities. Internal communications about the policy would also shed light on the radical, agenda-driven nature of the agencies’ bureaucrats. Even more importantly, the administration never sought congressional authorization for this program; they simply created it out of thin air.
It is far better for the administration’s interests to take advantage of the public’s affection for those who have worn the uniform. The majority of Americans rightly have respect and love for those who have served. Most people have someone in their family who served in the military, and we should appreciate former service members for their sacrifices in protecting our freedoms.
While we honor our veterans, they are subject to the same laws as are civilians. If veterans commit an assault, robbery or other felony, they don’t get a free pass solely on the basis of their military service. Like everyone else, they will receive due process through our justice system and, if found guilty, will be sentenced accordingly. There are many inmates in state and local prisons who served in the military, and while we thank them for their service, we still punish them for their crimes. Since federal immigration law mandates removal of people living in or entering the country illegally guilty of certain crimes, such people should not be exempt from immigration consequences merely because they spent time in the U.S. military.
Despite this, the Biden Administration believes it can change the law by fiat. In our constitutional system of separation of powers, the executive branch is supposed to enforce the law, not create programs to evade and undermine it. If the White House thinks current law is somehow unfair because it does not privilege veterans ahead of other convicted criminal people living in or entering the country illegally, they can convince Congress to change the law. Absent that, they are just creating new powers for the executive branch. That is action consistent not with a constitutional republic, but with tyranny.
Much like it did by inflaming public sentiments over a scandalously misrepresented photo of a mounted Border Patrol agent, this administration is now playing on the nation’s affection for veterans to conduct policies that work against the interests of the United States and its citizens. Even worse, they are making an extra-constitutional power grab and violating federal law to hide it from the public.
The American people have spoken. They do not want amnesty, surrendered borders or lawless communities, yet that is what the Biden White House is giving them.
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.
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