It’s not that simple
There have been millions of words spoken, written and posted on the Trump administration’s decision to prosecute men and women who cross the border illegally.
Much of the debate – especially from the left – has focused on one consequence of that action – splitting children from their criminally-accused parents.
But that focus misses the point.
This isn’t an immigration issue.
It’s a law enforcement issue.
It’s a federal law issue.
Here’s the statute: “Any alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers… shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both….”
Philosophically, we suspect we’d all agree that it seems reasonable to have regulations and laws in place aimed at securing our borders.
On a recent episode of The View – where one of the commentators attempted to link this issue with the Holocaust (an idea that is patently absurd) – Meghan McCain hit the nail on the head.
“We are a nation of borders and laws. If we are a nation without borders and laws, then we are not a nation.”
The fact here is pretty simple – crossing the border without permission is a criminal offense in violation of Federal law.
And when people break the law, whether at the border or in Warren County, prison time is often the consequence.
And you don’t get to take your kids to jail.
But it’s the law on the books.
And we don’t trust government, regardless of the level – municipal, county, state or federal – to pick which laws it chooses to enforce and those it chooses to ignore.
Regardless of your political bent, it should be concerning that previous administrations, in this case, chose not to enforce federal law.
We wholeheartedly agree that there are moral, psychological and practical implications that result when splitting families. We’ll even go far enough to say that it might be morally wrong.
But what’s happening at the border isn’t the result of a corrupt, soulless administration (at least not completely).
It’s a byproduct of the fact that, as a society, we have a deeply flawed criminal justice system.
According to the NAACP, the number of incarcerated people in America increased from about 500,000 to over 2.2 million. They astutely note that the US makes up about five percent of the world’s population and has 21 percent of the world’s prisoners.
It’s cheaper to simply incarcerate people – splitting families in the process – than it is to actually invest in people to promote reform.
Plus, politically we’re willing to spend to lock up bad guys while there is minimal political will to spend tax money on poor, often uneducated criminals.
Why do we mention this in the confines of a discussion of what’s happening at the border?
Because we think it’s important to note that families are being split here in Warren County for the exact same reason they are being split at the border: people broke the law.
And the only real system our society has in place to hold people charged with breaking the law is prison. And that’s inevitably going to result in splitting families.
Now the beauty of our system is that our laws aren’t at the whim of a dictator or despot.
We have the power to change them.
Laws often have unintended consequences.
Splitting families, we suggest, is an unintended consequence.
So, Congress, there aren’t too many of us left that trust in you to do the right thing.
But you’ve got a chance here – change the law to stop this barbarism at the border.