Without fail, when I write or read an opinion piece or news story on the deportation of non-citizens from the United States, there are comments below the post that suggest that we should “deport all illegals.” It does not matter if we are talking about straight-A student Rigo Padilla or a convicted murder, the rhetoric is the same — deport them; they are illegal. In an attempt to pre-empt that comment below this post, I’d like to explore it.
First of all, not all “illegals” are the same. For example, many asylum-seekers enter the US illegally, then apply for asylum. After applying, they are no longer undocumented, but documented asylum-seekers. Later, they can become U.S. citizens. Some people enter the US with visas, and then overstay, going from documented visitors to undocumented migrants.
Because “illegality” is a status one can move in and out of, it is not accurate to refer to people as “illegals.” There are about twelve million people who lack authorization to remain in the US. Some of these people are in the process of legalizing; others are waiting for a key life event that will permit them to legalize, and still others will never be able to gain legal status, because of more than one illegal entry, immigration fraud, or a host of other legal infractions.
“Deport all illegals,” then, is a rallying cry to not permit those who presently qualify, or may qualify in the future, to attain legal status — to go through the process of legalization. Why are some people in favor of stopping this process? Why not, instead, use the resources available to speed up the legalization process? The end result would be fewer people without authorization to remain in the United States.
“Deport all illegals” is a cry to expel immediately all persons in the US without authorization. The idea that all undocumented migrants should be deported is based on the assumption that there should be no judicial process to evaluate who should be deported and who should be allowed to stay. People in the US lack authorization to remain in the US either because they entered illegally, because their visa has expired, because they violated the conditions of their visa, or because their visa application has been denied. Their crime, then, is either “entry without inspection,” “visa overstay,” or ignoring a deportation order. These legal infractions are about as serious as driving without a license, jaywalking, tax evasion, or failure to report to jury duty, depending on the sort of comparison you wish to draw. In contrast, people accused of the most heinous crimes — murder, rape, child abuse, human trafficking — are afforded a trial with a full judicial process. Why, then, do people advocate for the immediate deportation of all “illegals” without any judicial process? Are illegal entry and overstaying a visa more heinous crimes than murder or rape?
Perhaps it has to do with national sovereignty. “Illegals” lack permission to be here, so kick them out. However, if the question is simply one of national sovereignty and not criminality, why does the discourse center around illegality — the breaking of laws — and criminality? Furthermore, since the primary focus is on legal infractions, why suggest eliding the judicial process? Why not, instead, restore due process to deportation proceedings, and ensure that people are given a fair trial before being removed from the United States?
Instead of commenting below this post “deport all illegals,” I urge you to explain to me why the USA, which holds the Constitution so dear, should eliminate the judicial process and “deport all illegals.”