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Democratic Proposal: Hey, Let's Eliminate Criminal Penalties for Illegal Immigration -- and End Most Detentions

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

Not long ago, the Democratic Party's mantra on abortion was that the unfortunate practice ought to be "safe, legal and rare."  Nobody is pro-abortion, they told us.  Today, the party votes in virtual lockstep against any and all measures that would limit even the most extreme and unpopular forms of abortion, including recent legislation barring elective late-term abortions, and a bill to require medical care for infants born alive after failed abortions.  Not a single Democrat running for president has even hinted that the 'right' to abortion should be curtailed or limited in any way, at any point, for any reason -- including the supposed "moderates" in the race.  


Similarly, Democrats used to tell us that of course they were against illegal immigration; the relevant policy question, they said, was how to humanely and fairly treat the millions of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who have been living inside the United States for years.  They at least made a show out of getting tough on border security, in exchange for other 'reforms' -- and they recoiled with indignation when Republicans accused them of supporting "open borders."  Which brings us to today's rollout of an immigration plan from Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, a former Obama cabinet secretary who's widely considered to be a Vice Presidential short-lister, and whose brother is likely to challenge John Cornyn in next year's Texas Senate race:

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro offered a far-reaching plan to remake the nation’s immigration policy Tuesday with a new call to end criminal penalties for migrants entering the country without permission and a plan to remove detention as a tool for most immigration enforcement...For those who reach the country’s interior, he would reconstitute the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, by reassigning its interior enforcement functions to other agencies, including the Department of Justice. He would also reprioritize Customs and Border Protection efforts to focus on drug and human trafficking instead of interior law enforcement...The former head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio would end border wall construction...


Ending criminal penalties for illegal immigration, removing detention as an enforcement tool, effectively abolishing ICE as an enforcement agency -- all while telling CPB to focus on trafficking, as opposed to more run-of-the-mill illegal immigration offenses.  Plus, halting all new border wall construction, despite CPB begging for additional barriers in specifically targeted locations.  If this proposal isn't the modern equivalent of "open borders," I'm not sure what is.  Why on earth would Castro propose such permissive measures now, in the face of a border crisis so significant that even former Obama administration officials are calling it an urgent and acute emergency? "Castro says his plan is premised on the idea that the southern border is more secure than it has been in decades," the Post reports. Let's contrast that fantasy with some facts:

More than 76,000 immigrants illegally crossed the border in February and about half came with families, a 10-fold increase over the past two years. Border apprehensions in March probably exceeded 100,000, the highest monthly total in a decade. At the current rate, border apprehensions will exceed one million this year—the most since 2006—as human smugglers become more ambitious and reduce prices to entice more migrants...The Ninth Circuit in 2016 created other opportunities for asylum arbitrage by extending to families the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the time unaccompanied children may be detained to 20 days. This has encouraged parents to bring their children on a perilous journey in hopes of expediting their release into the U.S. A father of an eight-year-old boy who died in government custody last December while waiting to be processed had heard rumors that children are a fast-track entry ticket to the U.S. Border agents have identified 2,400 “false families” over the last year as smugglers pair adults with unrelated children.

Border Patrol has reached a "breaking point," with detention facilities totally overwhelmed and overrun, resulting in the release of hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal immigrants into the US interior. We have no place to put them and no capacity to process them in a timely manner, under our current, broken laws.  The word has gone out that arriving in America with a child, and claiming asylum, is a golden ticket into the country.  People have adjusted their behavior accordingly, leading to the chaos that's currently playing out.  If Castro's policy were implemented, imagine how the incentives would tilt even further in favor of encouraging illegal immigration.  There would be virtually no risk of criminal penalties for violating our sovereignty as a matter of course, there would be fewer physical barriers to avoid, there would be fewer officials tasked with stopping you, and you would be far less likely to be detained than to be cut loose into the United States with a future court date in your pocket.

This is a pro-illegal immigration plan, quite frankly, rooted in a preposterous premise, that reflects a fundamental disrespect for American sovereignty.  And yet, it mirrors the sliding center of gravity within the Democratic Party's base.  All Democrats should be asked whether they favor Castro's proposal.  Will an extremely lax immigration posture become yet another left-wing litmus test for 2020 aspirants?  Follow-up questions: What, if any, legal consequences should exist for 'average' unlawful entrants -- people who aren't smugglers or traffickers or criminals?  And is illegal immigration actually a moral good?  Based on many Democrats' rhetoric, one might be forgiven for getting the impression that they strongly prefer illegal immigrants to many of their fellow citizens. I'll leave you with this surreal CBS News headline glorifying 'coyotes' -- illegal immigration middlemen, many of whom are infamous for greed, ruthlessness, exploitation and lawlessness:


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