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Another puzzlement


It seems to me that every so often I come across something that defies my understanding – you know, a situation that doesn’t make much sense – what we used to call a “puzzlement” or “head-scratcher”. Some have been around for quite a while such as why we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway. And didja ever wonder why some berries are red when they’re green. None of these peculiarities are of any importance in our everyday lives but they do lead to some puzzlement.

Anyway, something has popped up in the news that also brings on some head scratching – another puzzlement. It came about by the President’s announcement that he intends to do away with what is known as the “catch and release” procedure practiced by our border control agencies. The way this has worked is that thousands of folks from other countries enter the US without going through the regular entry process by simply crossing the border and then deliberately turning themselves over to authorities. They then are taken into custody for a short time, told they would have to appear for an immigration/deportation hearing sometime in the future, and then released into our country – thus the nickname “catch and release”.

In practice, however, the overwhelming majority never show up for a hearing – which might not be for a couple of years – but merely join the other estimated 20 million “undocumented immigrants” or “illegal aliens” depending on your viewpoint that currently reside in our country. The obvious reason they “disappear” is that only about 20 per cent of those who have a hearing receive permission to stay.

The President is quoted as saying, “We’re going to no longer release. We’re going to catch; we’re not going to release. They’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place. So we’re not releasing them into the community,” He even mentioned the possibility of “tent cities” where individuals and families would await their turn to appear before a judge. As might be expected in the current poisonous political atmosphere this has raised strident voices of opposition, but what I find a puzzlement is the source of a legal challenge.

Yep, Honduran migrants traveling in one of those “caravans” headed to the U.S.-Mexico border have filed a case in federal court suing the President, the US Attorney General and others in the administration arguing that the administration’s change in the “catch and release” procedures would violate their constitutional rights. That’s right! They claim they have rights under the US Constitution even though they are not US citizens, are not nor ever been US residents, legal or otherwise, and have never even set foot in this country. How about them apples.

They base their claim on The Fifth Amendment which states that, “no person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” They assert holding folks in what amounts to detention or custody while awaiting a hearing would amount to depriving them of liberty and is thus unconstitutional.

Hey wait a minute! What this apparently amounts to is the concept that individuals and groups can claim to have the right under the US Constitution to enter our country by whatever means they choose, turn themselves in to our border security agents, go through a preliminary examination by authorities, and then be permitted to join our general population – supposedly while awaiting a formal immigration hearing. My puzzlement is: since when do our constitutional rights and protections extend beyond our borders to foreigners who decide they want to come here? I’d guess we can trace this ideology to the “do-gooders” who figure we should have open borders and their accommodating activist judges who consistently discover new extensions to, and interpretations of, the US Constitution.

Well, there you have it. Another puzzlement – a situation that doesn’t make much sense to me. Perhaps my understanding that we have both the right and the duty to control our borders and determine who enters our country is too old-fashioned, too outmoded for today’s ultra-modern society. After all, we now have numerous cities and some states which have designated themselves as “sanctuaries” for those who are here without official approval – and they also advocate non-cooperation with, and elimination of, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Kinda makes a body wonder why we even bother with immigration laws – but that’s yet another puzzlement. At least that’s how it seems to me.


By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor is a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident.