Weekly Lens #7: Illegal Immigrant Detainment

This weeks topic was illegal immigrant detainment. The question posed to our writers and anyone who wanted to send their own response in was as follows. "Do you believe that a non-US citizen who entered the US illegally has surrendered certain rights by illegally crossing the border, and if so, what rights have they surrendered? Are there different categories of rights (example, rights that may be suspended when someone breaks a law, rights that can never be taken away from anyone)? Based on these answers, what actions do you think the government should take in regards to the issue of detaining illegal immigrants?"

RightLens News Writer Responses

Joint Response by Sarah Shaffer and Farah Hersi:
If you asked a child learning about our constitution and what makes it so great, they might happen to mention freedom of speech, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or even the right to a fair trial. Such rights under the constitution address rights that belong to all, citizen or not (Bray). These rights exist to protect and serve anyone for the mere qualification of being a “person” (as this is the language in the constitution). As the attainment of specific papers may change your citizenship status, it does not change your ‘person’ status. Non-US citizens who entered illegally have the same rights as someone who committed a misdemeanor. While they have broken a law with illegal entry, the virtue of them being human entitled to inalienable rights is not lost. Upon migration immigrants knowingly place themselves in a vulnerable position; however, their natural rights should never be placed in jeopardy. As the attainment of specific papers may change your citizenship status, it does not change your ‘person’ status. A law does not dictate the value of people, it’s a fallacious thought to equate what is legal to what is right as our history proves abhorrent laws that have gone out of favor because they violated the humanity of people. Treating undocumented individuals as if they’re less than a citizen is under the same umbrella as the legal discrimination in the past.
Just as everyone is entitled to natural rights under international law, the US constitution protects undocumented individuals just the same. The fourteenth amendment directly states “any state [cannot] deprive any person of life, liberty and property without due process of the law..” The language of the amendment encompasses all individuals within the the United States not just limited to the status of “citizen.” Even outside of the federal government control, several state constitutions grants undocumented immigrants many protections, some even given the ability to obtain a driver’s license. While undocumented immigrants are subject to the state’s discretion for already breaking a law, they have legal protections in place that ideally view them as equal to citizens. If the government had the power to illegally detain and seize individuals because of their citizenship status, deprive them of their entitled rights and treat them less than a person what is stopping the government from doing the same to its citizens? This becomes a battle for the size of government, to which extent can we allow the government to deprive people their rights due to arbitrary definitions.
With that in mind, the detainment of immigrants should be looked at as any other legal process for any other average citizen. It should be done in a manner that allows due process to run its course so that every human may be heard under the law. The separation of families, deprivation of due process and violating their right to life does not suddenly become appropriate because someone escaping a violent setting to seek a better life becomes desperate and breaks a law considered a misdemeanor. Internationally humans have inalienable rights and the US constitution applies to all American spheres.

Guest Writer Responses

Response by Kevin Pereksta
In answering whether illegal immigrants have forfieted certain rights by entering the US without a visa one must understand that there is a vast amount of caveats involved. For instance, whether or not the immigrant entered the states via their own choice. The best possible case would be a world where when one who entered the states without a visa and established a life in America without the freedom to have chosen to build their life elsewhere would not be punished by being ripped from their community and deported to a land where they may or may not have the capability to sustain themselves be it by lack of understanding the culture, language barriers or absence of family.

Unfortunately this is where theory meets practice. On a large scale, it is a much more difficult problem to deal with hundreds of thousands of individuals entering the United States without inspection or visas. It is a difficult problem to know how old undocumented individuals were when they entered. It is a difficult problem to understand the ethics behind deporting an individual who alleges that they entered the states an age where they were unable to decide for themselves.

The larger problem at hand is, Do illegal immigrants cause a problem for the United States? Do illegal immigrants cost tax payers $300 billion per year, a number President Trump has flaunted? The answer, as reported by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is no. While there is a measurable impact, it is low. The Government Accountability Office reported a relatively slow growth in incarcerated illegal aliens between the years 2003 and 2010. In fact, in a study performed by the Cato Institute in 2018, Native-born Americans commited crimes at nearly twice the rate of undocumented immigrants. 

It is then my opinion that individuals in America should be treated as people. That is to say, they should be granted life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness. The government should take action on individuals when action is needed. An illegal immigrant peacefully residing in the states need not cost citizens thousands of dollars to be deported.

Response by Anonymous
When you enter someone else's territory, you are subject to that territories rules. The United States is a sovereign nation with laws that must be enforced. When someone crosses the border and enters the US illegally, they have freely committed a crime and due to their own freewill, have become subject to whatever punishment is prescribed for said crime.

The controversial nature of separating children from their parents is not an issue relegated to just the Trump era, in 2016 before Trump was elected, the Flores Consent Decree in 1997 stated that an unaccompanied child could be held in custody for no more than 20 days, in 2016 the ninth circuit extended that rule to children accompanied by parents. Now when a family enters the US illegally, is caught, and pleads guilty, the separation of children from their parents is generally very short, this is because US marshals can hold adults in custody but are unable to hold children in custody and so the families are separated, however if a family claims asylum, the legal processes are much longer and due to the laws on the books, children can't be detained with their parents. Now once again, remember the parents are subjugating their children to this, it is a well known fact that to illegally cross the border is a crime, that said, any parent that cared enough to take their children with them and seek asylum should just apply for asylum in one of the various locations throughout Mexico that offers asylum applications.

All that said, there is a clear flaw in the laws in the books, and just because we must enforce the laws on the books if we are to be a nation of law and order, doesn't mean we can't change the laws. There is clear evidence that to separate a child from his or her parents is psychologically harmful to that child, although the Trump administration has taken steps in ending that practice. The American people have the right to vote, if they don't like how something is moving, they can make a push to change it, all I am arguing for is that if we are to have laws, we must enforce them.

These are the responses received for this weeks Weekly Lens, remember you can always respond send in a response for a weekly lens prompt, just email me at Sean.Pereksta@gmail.com with your response and the name you want displayed over your response, if you answer the weekly lens prompt and message me, odds are your response will be in the next weekly lens.


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