On Monday the Supreme Court decided a case in which several sections of the Arizona immigrant law were struck and one section upheld. However, in reading the decision, it is important to note some of the language that is used. For instance, look at the following sentence from the ruling:
Among other things, federal law specifies categories of aliens who are ineligible to be admitted to the United States, 8 U. S. C. §1182; requires aliens to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status, §§1304(e), 1306(a); imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers, §1324a; and specifies which aliens may be removed and the procedures for doing so, see §1227. Removal is a civil matter [emphasis mine], and one of its principal features is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials, who must decide whether to pursue removal at all. … As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States. [emphasis mine]
Note the phrasing about the general rule that, “it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States.” Guess what? If something is not generally a crime, then the person is not generally a criminal. The Court goes on to explain–in part, for there are many pages of arguments–why this is so:
Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service. Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices that bear on this Nation’s international relations. Returning an alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriate even where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission. The foreign state maybe mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alien or his family will be harmed upon return. The dynamic nature of relations with other countries requires the Executive Branch to ensure that enforcement policies are consistent with this Nation’s foreign policy with respect to these and other realities.
That is, a person may be an illegal alien, but for many reasons–only some of which are outlined by the Court in my quote above–the USA may legitimately decide to allow that illegal alien to stay. Thus, though the Supreme Court uses the term illegal alien, it makes clear that the alien is not a criminal. For those of you who have been using the term criminal, you were using a wrong term. For those of you who were arguing that a “criminal” should never receive “amnesty,” the Court has laid out in several paragraphs (only part of one is quoted above) the many reasons why the USA can legitimately allow an illegal alien to become a permanent resident.
So, please stop using the terms “criminal” and “amnesty.” When you use them, you show that you are wrong regarding the law, so says the Court. Now, it is time for us to find a solution that follows the ruling of the Court, as it interpreted the Constitution and laws of the USA, rather than the dictates of ephemeral politics.