President Donald Trump made clear during his campaign that securing our borders was one of his top priorities. He also made clear that our laws would be enforced, upholding the constitutional mandate of the executive branch. Once elected, he outlined an 80-point plan to address border security, illegal immigration, and DACA. The administration’s plan did not gain congressional approval. Despite the fact that the Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate, Democratic votes are required in order to reach the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to change the law. We are now seeing the consequences of a congressional failure to act. President Trump is enforcing laws enacted by Congress years ago, and the result is children being separated from their parents and transporters at the borders. And because he is enforcing the law – as he is constitutionally mandated to do – he is being filleted as heartless.
The Department of Homeland Security is obligated to impose consequences for violations of law. As the DHS secretary stated, “This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you. If you make a false immigration claim, we will prosecute you. If you smuggle illegal aliens across an extraordinarily dangerous journey, we will prosecute you.” This is what following the rule of law looks like, and it should be no surprise to anyone that failure to comply with the law has consequences.
Our entire criminal code uses consequences as a deterrent for bad behavior. The separation of children from their parents happens every single day in the criminal justice system. Every parent in prison has chosen committing a criminal act over meeting his/her parental obligation to his/her child. Our foster care system is filled with children of incarcerated parents. We should have the same outrage for the separation of parents from their children for non-illegal immigration related criminal acts as the outrage we have now for the separation at the border.
Illegal immigration continues as it had before the 2016 presidential election, yet now consequences for criminal behavior at the border are being imposed. It is heart wrenching when parents choose criminal conduct over the needs of their children. It is equally heart wrenching when parents use children as pawns to try to limit the consequences of their criminal behavior. Criminals (and apparently some in Congress) hope that blaming President Trump for imposing consequences to criminal behavior will result in the suspension of consequences. As a nation of laws, we cannot suspend consequences for criminal conduct. However, Congress can determine if the consequences are just. I join President Trump in asking Congress to do its job: amend unjust laws and comprehensively address border security.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.
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