The Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing and detention center in Aurora has gotten a lot of attention lately. On July 12, it was set upon by supporters of illegal migrants who staged an anti-ICE protest turned ugly by a violent faction that desecrated an American flag, replaced it with a Mexican flag and scrawled anti-police graffiti on a Blue Lives Matter flag. On Labor Day, peaceful defenders of American sovereignty and our immigration laws turned out in support of the ICE facility. On September 15, the Denver Post published a guest commentary by Denise S. Maes, public policy director of the ultra-liberal American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, criticizing the ICE facility and the conditions and treatment of those detained there.
Yes, the facility is overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. And the waiting time to process and adjudicate those detained there for deportation or asylum is very long. The remedy for overburdened ICE facilities is simple, although expensive. Spend a lot more money, build more facilities, hire more people, improve food and lodging conditions, sharply increase the number of immigration judges, legal support staff and public defenders.
But conditions at the Aurora ICE facility and others like it are fallout from and subordinate to the greater issue of border security and immigration policy. The current crisis has been driven by the deluge of migrants from Central America who have caravanned through Mexico to the US seeking refuge from violence and economic hardship in their native countries. ICE facilities and our courts weren’t intended to deal with this magnitude.
The root cause of this isn’t the ICE detention centers or American cruelty. It’s the conditions in the countries the refugees are fleeing. And that’s beyond our realistic ability to resolve, anymore than we can rescue the people of Venezuela from the destruction of their economy and constitution by the tyrants that have ruined that country in the name of socialism and social justice.
Few of these Central Americans qualify for refugee status or political asylum under our laws, which require that a person has suffered or has a well-founded fear of persecution based on only five specific grounds: “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” Gang violence, political upheaval or poverty in their home countries, or the quest for better economic opportunities, health care and government assistance programs in the US don’t qualify. If they did we’d be obliged to welcome and provide for many millions of the oppressed and impoverished on this planet who would overwhelm our country.
Those outside the US may apply for refugee status. At a US port of entry, people may apply for political asylum and may or may not be allowed entry at that time. Many of whom are still in Mexico. ICE detention centers hold asylum seekers who illegally crossed our border or overstayed a visa. The children they bring with them further complicate the problem. But they aren’t put in “cages” as critics claim. They’re usually held in open areas behind chain link barriers (just like detainees in ICE detention centers were during the Obama presidency). Yes, the conditions are crowded and austere, and there’s a large backlog in the court docket. One option for the detainees is to withdraw their doubtful asylum claim and go back home now, rather than later.
Open borders activists and (illegal) immigration lawyers want to reinstitute Obama’s “catch and release” policy under which asylum seekers were allowed to remain free on US soil under their own recognizance while awaiting their court hearing In his Senate testimony in May, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, reported that the vast majority of them simply don’t show up.
Democrat superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and like-minded simpletons have called for “abolishing” ICE; in other words eliminating enforcement of our laws pertaining to immigration and customs (defined as duties and taxes imposed by the government on imported and exported goods). Almost all in the herd of Democrat candidates for president have called for open borders or some euphemistic version of that.
It’s not the fault of ICE or President Trump that our detention facilities and courts are overwhelmed. It’s mostly the fault of the multitudes who’ve entered or stay in our country illegally. The overarching problem is the lack of border security and misguided policies that continue to encourage other migrants to do the same. And that’s the work of idealistic, compassionate, moralizing, absolutist, impractical, virtue-signaling, social justice warriors and progressives unconstrained by reality, reason or any limiting principle.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.