Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Statute of limitations on illegal immigration

There was an excellent article in the Washington Post over the weekend making the case for a statute of limitations on deportation.

We used to have one policy that is worth revisiting: a time limit -- a statute of limitations -- on prosecuting unauthorized presence... nearly all offenses, civil and criminal, carry statutes of limitations... It is not the best use of the government's resources to pursue old cases in which the evidence is stale or difficult to obtain....
A statute of limitations on unlawful entry is therefore not anachronistic but consistent with basic legal and moral principles. It does not condone or reward illegal immigration: Unauthorized presence would remain a violation of the law and continue to carry the risk of apprehension and removal, at least for some period of time. But it would allow us to recognize that the undocumented become, for better or worse, members of the community, and to accept them as such.

I can remember reading about cases in the past where elderly grandmothers who have been in this country longer than I have were picked up by the INS and threatened with deportation. Surely there must be some kind of common sense way to deal with such potential travesties and a statute of limitations is it. I don’t know how long it should be, but I have no doubt that our INS would be better serving the public interest by pursuing recently arrived illegals rather than going after people who have established themselves in their communities.

There was another case I remember when I was in Lubbock about a woman from the Phillippines who was picked up by the INS and threatened with deportation despite the fact that she was married to a U.S. serviceman and had four small children at home. It had to be one of the most monumentally stupid things the INS had ever done. They were just begging to get bad publicity. Every night on the news and in the paper you would see images of this Army officer at home trying to take care of his four children ages 9 months, 2, 4, and 6, while their mother who had come to this county as a child 12 years earlier was sitting in lockup somewhere.
I don’t know how the case was eventually resolved but I don’t think she was deported. Fortunately for her this happened back before Republican ideologues took over every branch of the government so I believe that cooler heads eventually prevailed. Today it would probably have turned out quite differently.

But at least not all right-wingers are on the wrong side of this issue. I was surprised to see a rare column by Charles Krauthammer the other day that I can actually agree with.
So maybe there is hope on this issue.

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