Crimes of Violence and Vagueness

What’s an immigrant got to do these days to get deported?  How about commit first-degree burglary? Twice!

Nah! It’s not like first-degree burglary is a “crime of violence” or anything like that.

At least, not according to the Supreme Court.

The recent Sessions v. Dimaya court decision was eye-opening. And not just because the newest justice―Trump appointee, Neil Gorsuch―sided with the Clinton-Obama leftist wing of the court.

No, this case is revealing because it sheds some light on the infamous 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, a really terrible deal surpassed in its dreadfulness only by the Iran deal. The 1965 act was the baby of Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy, of course, is better known as the guy who drove Mary Jo Kopechne off the Chappaquiddick bridge.

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act set the stage for immigrants to inundate the country in unprecedented numbers. Over the following 30 years, more than 18 million immigrants entered the United States legally. That’s three times the total number admitted in the 30 years prior to 1965.

Understanding that there are always some bad apples in the bunch, the Immigration and Nationality Act established guidelines for deportation. Very sensibly, the law stipulated that an immigrant could be sent packing after committing a “crime of violence.”

What Happens in Vagueness . . .
Normal people would think first-degree burglary qualifies as a crime of violence. But just as President Clinton wasn’t sure what the meaning of the word “is” is, the court wasn’t sure what the meaning of “crime of violence” is.

Neil Gorsuch joined the majority by not answering the question. He contended that “crime of violence” is a vague term. So vague, in fact, that we have no way of knowing whether first-degree burglary is a crime of violence. According to this reasons, if we don’t know, we can’t deport the perpetrator.

“Vague laws invite arbitrary power,” Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion, “leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up.”

No one on the receiving end of a first-degree burglary is confused about whether it feels like a crime of violence. But Gorsuch is right about one thing: “Vague” is bad when it comes to making laws.

Vaguely written laws are the lifeblood of the swamp. They give career bureaucrats carte blanche to interpret the vagaries as they please. It’s these deep state civil servants who end up crafting the laws they want, not the ones presented to the American people by their elected representatives.

Still, there’s one thing we learned about this immigration bill that is not vague at all. A  violent crime―whatever that is―can get you deported. But a lesser crime will be overlooked. You can stay right here, safe and sound on these shores.

That means someone can ransack a private home, snatch a woman’s purse, or steal a car, and it’s all good. No violence to see here. Move along. You’re good to stay.

It seems that immigration issues are loaded with such vagaries. And it’s these vague terms that are preventing the government from deporting anyone.

Vague About Migration
We’re all familiar with “No Fault of Their Own.” It’s conveniently vague. No one knows what it means. It means whatever you want it to mean. That’s what makes it such an effective rallying cry for illegal DACA-type immigrants.

Currently, the “Blame it on Honduras” caravan of “migrants” is front and center in the news. We’re told they must be allowed into this country and granted asylum because they are fleeing the oppression of their native country. Exactly what kind of oppression? Hard to say. It’s a bit vague.

Among the troubles they’ve seen is a contentious presidential election that has created much violence and instability. So naturally, the United States is the place to go to get away from all that. No contentious elections here . . .

Even a killer of an innocent young woman can’t get deported. Yes, Garcia Zarate did kill Kate Steinle, but the circumstances were vague. After all, he didn’t mean it. He was only shooting up the pavement. How was he to know that the bullet would ricochet 80 feet or so and penetrate Kate Steinle’s back and kill her?

It’s hard to imagine, but years ago―before they were against it―Democrats were all for deporting immigrants. Back then, an immigrant, even without committing a crime, could be sent back by a Democratic president.

This was true even when that immigrant was here through no fault of his own. After all, it doesn’t get more “No Fault” than having your mother stuff you into a small boat and take you on a 10-hour tour to the Florida coast; a journey which she and several others did not survive..

Even when that immigrant is escaping a totalitarian regime―one with a president-for-life that subjugates its citizens, uses repressive tactics to curb dissent, and arbitrarily arrests human rights defenders—Democrats seem unconcerned.

The Dreamer a Democrat Deported
For none of this bothered Bill Clinton in 2002. The plight of this illegal immigrant had garnered a lot of international attention, and Clinton knew what he had to do.

But it’s not easy to remove people against their will. Accidents happen. He had only to consult with his attorney general, Janet Reno, who reminded him of how she managed to incinerate scores of innocent people―men, women, and children, all American citizens―while carrying out a botched raid.

Clinton wasn’t going to have any of that this time. So he sent for the big guns―literally―to do it right. In a pre-dawn raid, operating stealthily, heavily-armed federal agents stormed a small Miami home.

Back then, when smartphones were not yet ubiquitous, someone still managed to snap a good photo, commemorating the occasion.

Mission accomplished.

Bill Clinton got his man. Actually, it was just a small boy, Elian Gonzalez, the most notorious Cuban in America since Ricky Ricardo.

After providing an EZ Pass to millions of immigrants, the Immigration and Nationality Act―and a Democratic president―somehow couldn’t give any shelter to a Cuban refugee.

Now, this just may be Cuban folklore, but they say Fidel Castro loved the picture of the raid, and hung it up in his living room. Each night, while sipping a nice Cuban rum, he’d gaze at it, and he’d smile.

Mission accomplished indeed.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

About Steve Lipman

Steve Lipman is a writer in Los Angeles whose irreverent approach to the serious issues of the day goes where angels fear to tread.

Photo: Handcuffs

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.