Matt O’Brien: Mass Incarceration Remains a Myth, Mass Migration Is Still a Problem
by Matt O’Brien
The Intercept has published an article titled, “Immigration Detention Is Part of Mass Incarceration: The Case for Abolishing Ice and Everything Else.” It is, in essence a promotion piece for two unabashedly anti-Trump screeds: Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession With Locking Up Immigrants, written by law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández and All-American Nativism: How the Bipartisan War on Immigrants Explains Politics as We Know It, by Daniel Denvir.
Both authors argue that the Trump administration’s attempts to strengthen immigration enforcement are not intended to preserve American sovereignty and national security. Rather, they claim, Team Trump is exploiting systemic racism, fear of migrants and a “mass incarceration problem” that undermines civil rights in the United States. Moreover, both García Hernández and Denvir assert – against the weight of historical evidence – that only recently has the U.S. government begun to take immigration violations seriously.
But, even for The Intercept, which is unabashedly anti-Trump and pro-open-borders, touting such over-the-top hyperbole is a bit much. Neither García Hernández’ nor Denvir’s claims have any validity whatsoever.
To begin with, the United States in its relatively brief history has received more immigrants than all the other nations of the world combined. Clearly, we don’t have any fear of migrants. Not to mention that, since immigrants aren’t a race – they come from every corner of the globe – it’s patently ridiculous to claim that being broadly in favor of border enforcement renders someone a “racist.”
When it comes to the detention of lawbreakers, the U.S. isn’t even close to having a “mass incarceration problem.” As Rafael A. Mangual of the Manhattan Institute has pointed out, the U.S. does have a fair and impartial justice system. And that system regularly incarcerates violent felons and other serious criminals who pose a danger to the American public. What’s more, unlike many other countries in the world, the U.S. transparently reports the number of people it jails each year. Meanwhile, the notion that the U.S. regularly incarcerates people who simply don’t deserve to be in jail just isn’t supported by any objective data.
As far as the severity with which immigration offenses have been viewed throughout American history, both García Hernández and Denvir are way off base. In 1798, Congress passed the Alien Friends Act, which empowered the president to imprison or deport aliens believed to be “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.”
In 1799, in Frie’s Case, Supreme Justice James Iredell applied the Alien Friends Act and related legislation. He noted that no one had ever argued, “that aliens had a right to go into a foreign country, and stay at their will and pleasure without any leave from the government.” Justice Iredell’s statement is proof positive that even the earliest government officials believed that foreign nationals may enter and remain in the U.S. only with the permission of the Executive Branch. Furthermore, it’s a clear acknowledgement that the federal government has always had the authority to take enforcement actions against foreigners who enter the U.S. without permission or who exceed the bounds of permissions granted.
So, what’s up with The Intercept and the authors it cites? They believe that the actions of individuals are not a product of conscious choice. Instead, they see crime and illegal migration as things that people are forced into. And they consider anything other than total forgiveness for any type of criminal behavior to be immoral. It’s what Kurt Schlichter of Townhall.com calls “decriminalizing crime.” However, eliminating all restrictions on bad behavior only leads to chaos and the breakdown of the social order needed for the United States to remain successful.
American voters know that we don’t have a mass incarceration problem, we have an unchecked mass migration problem. That’s why they elected Donald Trump as president. He was the first candidate in five decades who seemed to understand their frustrations with immigration policies that put the desires of foreign nationals above American’s basic need for safety, security and economic stability.
Matt O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.