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Border-security theater

Everything our political class says about citizenship and immigration is a sham, designed to make a straightforward duty seem like an incomprehensible mess.

After years of  effort, celebrity “immigration activist” and proud member of the “undocumented-American” community Jose Antonio Vargas finally managed to wake up the moribund U.S. immigration system and provoke it into taking action against him.  A great deal of what is happening on our southern border is an abject farce, but some of the people who slept through the first few acts are waking up now.  CNN reports:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas suspected he wouldn’t get out.

His fear came to fruition Tuesday morning when he was detained at a Texas airport while trying to pass through security en route to Los Angeles, said Ryan Eller, campaign director for Define American, a group Vargas founded in 2011.

Vargas was being questioned at a U.S Customs and Border Protection facility at the airport in McAllen, Eller said at a news conference.

Calling on President Barack Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to release the journalist-turned-immigration activist, Eller explained that Vargas, Define American and other groups traveled to McAllen to “stand in solidarity with and humanize the stories of the children and families fleeing the most dangerous regions of Central America.”

Vargas has been breaking laws left and right for years.  As Michelle Malkin notes, he’s not really “undocumented” – he has a huge trove of fake documents.  He finally marched right up to the authorities and dared them, nose-to-nose, to do something about him.  They did, so of course “immigration activists” are freaking out.

Evidently Vargas is meant to be counted among our Ruling Class aristocracy, immune to laws they deem unfashionable.  In a way, you can’t blame him for being surprised that he finally ran afoul of some government agents who were unwilling to let him skate because he gets on TV a lot and has a Pulitzer Prize.  (And I wouldn’t necessarily bet the farm on this ending with Vargas getting deported or detained for very long now.  You, dear reader, are trapped in a vast maze of laws that can ruin your life or business at any moment, but there really is an aristocracy that lives above such concerns, it skews largely to the political Left, and it’s not going to rest until Jose Vargas gets his special privileges back.)

Vargas wrote and directed “Documented,” a film about the U.S. immigration debate and his life story. CNN aired it on June 29.

He told CNN on Sunday that he traveled to McAllen to document the plight of refugees.

“Because I don’t have any ID besides my Filipino passport, it’s going to be hard for me to actually get out of here at some point when I decide to get out of here in the next couple of days,” he said.

Early Tuesday, Vargas tweeted that he was about to go through security at McAllen-Miller International Airport. Since outing himself as an undocumented immigrant three years ago, he says he has traveled extensively, visiting 40 states.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he tweeted, directing his followers to the Twitter handles for Define American and the University of Texas-Pan American’s Minority Affairs Council.

Within minutes, the latter retweeted a photo of Vargas in handcuffswith the caption: “Here’s a photo of (Vargas) in handcuffs, because the Border Patrol has nothing more pressing to do apparently.”

“Nothing more pressing to do?”  They did their jobs, their express sworn duties.  I guess I can understand why people would be thunderstruck at the sight of federal officials actually attending to their sworn duties.  It’s not something you see a lot of, from a government that is more interested in aggressively pursuing its agendas than fulfilling its obligations to American citizens, especially those contemptible taxpayers, who really should shut the hell up and open their wallets wider.

What makes Vargas somewhat unique is that he didn’t know he was an illegal alien until he was a teenager:

At age 12, Vargas came to the United States from the Philippines in 1993 with a man he’d never met but whom his aunt and a family friend introduced as his uncle, Vargas wrote in a 2011 column for The New York Times Magazine.

Once in the States, he lived with his grandfather, a security guard, and grandmother, a food server. Both were naturalized American citizens who had been supporting Vargas and his mother since Vargas was 3. He’d later learn that his grandfather had paid $4,500 for this purported uncle — who was a coyote, or people smuggler — to bring Vargas to the United States under a fake passport and name.

[…] Vargas says he didn’t know he was in the country illegally until he was 16, when he applied for a driver’s license and was told his green card was bogus. He went home and asked his grandfather if that was true, according to the magazine story.

“Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me. ‘Don’t show it to other people,’ he warned,” Vargas wrote.

As the old saying goes, hard cases make for bad law.  The attempt to equate his situation with the bulk of the “undocumented” community is intellectually dishonest.  The best way to prevent helpless minor children from getting trapped in citizenship nightmares is to enforce a system tight enough to convince their parents that violating American law is a mistake.  That’s the argument Obama implicitly echoed when he was pretending to tell Central American families that they should stop sending their children to the United States, isn’t it?  For years, the Ruling Class has pretended it agrees with citizens about what it should be doing, while hoping we didn’t notice their stubborn refusal to actually do it.

The argument Vargas and his supporters want to make would be much easier to swallow if this was not a titanic multi-trillion-dollar government providing an immense welfare state, and enforcing a crushing burden of laws against the poor chumps who try to “work hard and play by the rules.”  But there’s no way to reconcile what we actually do have with demands for a government that waves off citizenship requirements and proper documentation.  I suspect even most “liberal” American voters agree that the government’s money should be spent honestly, and accounted for carefully; even ardent supporters of the welfare state are opposed to fraud.  (In theory, they should be exceptionally vigorous in their opposition to it, because fraud, and other forms of lawbreaking, are a desecration of the Big Government temple they worship in.)

If the immigration debate leads into a larger discussion about irrational and poorly-enforced laws, I’m all in favor of having that discussion.  Border security is an especially acute example of kinda-sorta laws, special privileges, deliberate refusal by elected officials to obey their duties, theatrical performances, and everything else bad about modern American government.  Everything coming from the Obama Administration in the current crisis has been a scam; literally everything they said was a lie, usually proven as such in a matter of days, if not hours.

Remember when the President and his flacks were swearing up and down – not just to Americans, but to the people of Central America – that mass repatriation would begin at any moment, so it was foolish for people to rush across the border in search of permanent residence and de facto amnesty?  Supposedly the first repatriation flight was loaded up Monday… and it was only 40 people.  Even that talking point about how the current crisis was sparked by refugees fleeing a wave of Central American violence is looking pretty thin, given the leak of intelligence reports that found no such surge occurring.

President Obama three weeks ago: “Do not send your children to the borders.  If they do make it they’ll get sent back.  More importantly, they may not make it.”

But now the White House admits that most of the children will not get sent back, and it’s not likely the teenagers or adults will be, either.  After weeks of theatrical performances, empty rhetoric, and snow jobs, a little truth finally oozed through, as reported by The Hill:

The White House said Monday it was ??likely? that immigrant children facing mortal danger in their home countries would be allowed to stay in the United States.

The comments come amid a growing debate over a 2008 law that allows many of the children flooding across the southern border an automatic asylum hearing.

??These children will ?? and other immigrants who are attempting to enter the country without documentation ?? will go through the immigration process and that means their claims of asylum will be considered by an immigration judge and by asylum officials,? White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

??What that means is it means that if a immigration judge determines that they face a credible threat of death upon their return to their home country, then, again, I’m not an immigration judge, but it is likely that the immigration judge will find that that person should be granted humanitarian relief.?

The Hill describes this as part of a “careful balancing act” for the White House, which is “looking to appease both its Democratic base – which has expressed concern over the treatment of the migrant children – and Republicans eager to blame the crisis on mismanaged enforcement by the administration.”  A balancing act is a theatrical performance, a circus routine.  But this is all more properly described as lies, told to conceal a simple truth: the Ruling Class is not interested in border security or immigration enforcement.  Even those who were not involved in deliberately creating the current crisis, to overwhelm the immigration system, find the whole business of securing the border distasteful.  The “rule of law” is supposed to balance obligations from both citizens and the government, but today’s government officials don’t like to think of themselves as obligated to citizens.  They view the rule of law as a matter of command and obedience.

That’s why the fairly straightforward (which is not to say easy) task of securing the border and safeguarding citizenship is portrayed as an impossible madhouse balancing act of conflicting pressures.  That’s why the whole “comprehensive immigration reform” concept was always a con job, because there was never going to be any comprehensive increase of border security.  That is, quite simply, a task the American Ruling class does not wish to perform.  They don’t think the unwashed masses of American taxpayers should have anything to say about immigration or citizenship.  The rest of these goofy dramatics are distractions, much like a child concocting elaborate excuses for why he shouldn’t be sent to school today.

All of which would, again, be a little easier for the taxpaying chumps to accept, if the system imposed on the rest of us didn’t involve a million pages of micro-regulations.  The big argument a couple of weeks ago was whether religious employers should be granted some relief from thirty thousand pages of mandates forcing them to pay for contraceptive methods they found objectionable.  But the same Leviathan State can’t secure the border, deport people who violate our immigration laws, or work out reasonable procedures to handle special cases like the teenage boy who learned he was an illegal alien when he went for his drivers’ license?  We might find a broad consensus that our immigration laws, and the way they are enforced, constitute an insane system.  We might even agree that some aspects of it are “broken,” as the popular saying goes.  But why should we let the people who broke it, on purpose, have a say in how it gets “fixed?”  Especially since they keep lying to us, and in the rare moments of candor we are given, their idea of fixing the system sounds more like gutting it.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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