Media Falsely Asserts Trump Changing Immigration Law

Hysteria obstructs fact president ordering enforcement of existing statutes

by Matt O’Brien | Updated 03 Mar 2017 at 7:12 AM

The Trump administration recently issued new immigration enforcement guidance to the Department of Homeland Security that has sent the media into a full-bore fit of hysteria.

Given all the hyperbole, you’d think the media might attempt to get some of their facts straight. While President Donald Trump’s instructions are being falsely portrayed by the press as drastic changes in U.S. immigration law, he’s simply demanding existing legislation be applied as it is already written.

“President Trump has decided to enforce the existing law and protect the American public.”

For example, a recent article in The New York Times offers a blatant misrepresentation: “The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of ‘criminal aliens.'”

Actually, President Trump hasn’t expanded the definition of “criminal aliens.” That definition is set out in Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and it hasn’t changed one iota in years; only Congress has the power to change it. President Obama chose to ignore the law and flood American communities with criminal aliens who should have been deported. President Trump has decided to enforce the existing law and protect the American public.

According to The Boston Globe, immigration enforcement is ruining the lives of foreign medical students: “Hospitals are under intense pressure to reject qualified international medical students applying for residencies in the United States because of fears that President Trump’s immigration policies may bar the students from entering the country, educators and hospital administrators say.”

The article also implies that barring any foreign doctors — even those with questionable backgrounds or from countries that sponsor terrorism — will exacerbate a physician shortage and cost lives.

What is never mentioned, however, is that the number of students graduating from U.S. medical schools has increased by more than 23 percent, creating a shortage of available residency slots. Therefore, the pressure to reject international medical students is likely coming from American medical schools whose graduates are competing for the same training positions. If anything, American hospitals risk creating a physician shortage if they fail to expand their residency programs to accommodate the increase in U.S. trained doctors.

Here's a bit of creative nonfiction from a recent Chicago Tribune article: "The [new guidance] provisions also allow federal authorities to prosecute the parents of unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally if they are found to have paid smugglers."

Congress enacted the current alien smuggling provisions in 1978. Since then, federal prosecutors have had the authority to criminally prosecute anyone who paid smugglers. While there is a deportation waiver for certain aliens who personally smuggled an immediate family member, there has never been a prohibition on prosecuting parents who pay criminals to smuggle their kids into the U.S.

However, a conviction for smuggling is an aggravated felony that typically leads to deportation and a bar on reentry to the U.S. Once again, President Trump merely told Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce this law as it is written.

CNBC asks, "Is this even legal?" Then it follows up with a true gem, arguing, "Widespread reports show President Donald Trump is about to implement orders that will make almost every illegal immigrant in the United States subject to deportation."

It's not yet clear what part of illegal CNBC doesn't get, but every illegal alien in the United States is already subject to deportation. Unfortunately, CNBC is not alone with this line of thinking. All of the major news outlets are implying that certain classes of illegal aliens can't be deported. That simply isn't — and never has been — true. It is both a civil violation and a misdemeanor crime to enter the United States illegally. It's a civil violation to remain in the U.S. unlawfully, just as it is a crime to harbor illegal aliens.

If the press paid any attention to the public, they'd see that most U.S. citizens support President Trump's efforts to secure the borders, and view conscientious immigration enforcement as long overdue. But, apparently, there is no end to the media's concern for foreign lawbreakers — and no limit to its disrespect for the safety and security of average Americans.

The result: For perhaps the first time in modern American history, the media is demonizing a politician for obeying the law and keeping campaign promises. Welcome to the hysteria-driven world of 21st century immigration coverage.

Matt O'Brien is the former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's New York District. He is currently the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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