Public Comment

The Illegality of U.S. Immigration Policy

Harry Brill
Thursday November 29, 2018 - 10:38:00 PM

Among the important lessons we learn from history is that the winners in any political struggle often influence our outlook in ways that are congenial with the perspective of the winners. Take for example the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has done immensely important work to protect immigrants. In fact, to the ACLU's credit, it just persuaded a District judge to at least temporarily overturn a ruling by President Trump that would tremendously limit the number of undocumented immigrants that could apply for asylum.  

Yet the ACLU and other progressive organizations have agreed that the United States (U.S), like every nation, has the right to control who enters the country and who is allowed to remain. As the ACLU states, the U.S. "has the right to deport persons in the country who are not authorized to be here". So although the ACLU gets an "A" for advocacy, it shares with the establishment the view that deporting unwanted immigrants is legitimate as long as those who are adversely affected have been able to access the legal rights they are entitled to. That is what due process is about. 

Could there be anything wrong with this perspective? Yes, because decisions that may seem legally justified often don't stand up when we take a deeper, historical look. The problems that Mexicans confront as immigrants has a long history. In the mid-19th century, the doctrine called "Manifest Destiny" played an important role justifying an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. Wealthy citizens asserted that God supported the effort of the expand territorially and to spread capitalism. It was the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, coined in 1845, that provided the U.S. one year later with an excuse to engage in an unprovoked imperialist war with Mexico (1846-1848).  

As a result of the war, the U.S. obtained 55 percent of Mexico's territory, which included what became California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Western Colorado. Mexicans, of course, made up a substantial segment of the population of these stolen states. So the political establishment was committed to preventing the Mexicans from playing an effective political role. From the very beginning they were treated as outcasts by those who stole their land. When the political bigwigs seem to be doing the right thing legally, then and now it is often only window dressing. The challenge is to avoid being taken in by establishment intrigue. 

The contempt that Mexicans have experienced has continued unabated. During the Great Depression, for example, about 300,000 Mexicans living in the U.S. were deported. According to the historian, Francisco Balderrama, who studied deportation issues, It was a way of denying New Deal welfare benefits to Mexicans. 60 percent of the deported Mexicans were U.S. citizens! The political leaders referred to the deportation as "repatriation" to give the impression that they departed voluntarily. 

In the 1950s Mexicans were victims of the largest mass deportation in American history. An estimated 1.3 million Mexicans were unjustifiably deported. They were arrested and dumped elsewhere in Mexico by American immigration officials. The Mexicans paid the heavy price of losing their jobs and disrupting their lives That the deportation was brutal and illegal did not inhibit American officials. 

President Trump would like to continue this practice. In a speech Trump gave, he praised the past policy of dumping undocumented immigrants in Mexican territory. Apparently, the president has no problem evicting immigrants from what had been their own land. Clearly, he wants to make sure that these immigrants do not have a permanent and secure future in the U.S. So the President, who has undoubtedly recited many times the Pledge of Allegiance, should be continually reminded of its famous message, which advocates "liberty and justice for all". 

It is immensely important that American citizens learn about the tremendous disparity between words and deeds with regard to the treatment of undocumented immigrants. Mexicans particularly have a moral and legal right to live in the U.S. and be employed in any job they could qualify for. And it is about time that they are granted citizenship. Among the benefits, they could then participate politically by voting and running for office. It is about time. After all, they were among the original settlers.