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Stop Blaming the PHIs; Blame the Administration

I have as intense an aversion to lying as you can possibly imagine. Yet I don’t know in the extreme case of life and death if deception is unjustifiable.

Take, for instance, families like those who harbored Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II. Consider that Nazi soldiers appeared on the doorstep of one such German family who took in a family of Jews in order to save them from genocide. To the question “are you hiding any Jews in here?” the response of “no” would be a lie, but one that might convince the Germans to accept it at face value and move on. A truthful answer such as “yes” presumably would lead to the execution of both families – the hiders and the hidden.

But there are less severe examples. There’s the family living in a Central American country where conditions are as dangerous as you might find in the worst neighborhoods of the United States. The family probably doesn’t meet the criteria to qualify for asylum here, and conditions in the family’s country are not severe enough to warrant Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Yet, considering that the chances of staying alive and unharmed are small, and the opportunities of finding and maintaining gainful employment are even slimmer, such a family certainly might lie to the U.S. government in order to be granted asylum here. Especially if the worst-case scenario is eminently more attractive than their current qualify of life.

We were told that in 2020, President Trump established a policy known as Title 42, whereby because of the pandemic being a public health emergency, the United States could refuse to admit asylum applicants at the border. Except that Trump can’t get the credit for that one. The law was passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1944, and Democrat icon President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. The Trump Administration simply dusted it off and applied it in 2020, as one more way to combat the maddening rush of convoys to our border.

For the first year of his presidency, President Biden kept that policy in place. Then, the ‘open borderists’ caught on and gave him a very hard time about it. Now, Biden’s rescinded the policy, which means one of two things: 1) either Biden has overtly defied an act of Congress; or 2) he no longer considers the pandemic to be a public health emergency (I couldn’t agree more about the second, but if that’s the case, why did it take a federal court to reverse his federal transportation mask mandate?).

Let’s take the case of Jose Ramirez. I don’t mean the boxer or the ballplayer, or any of the countless individuals with that name. For the purposes of this column, he is a fictional character. Jose, his wife, and their two minor children live in a dangerous area in Nicaragua and would do just about anything to live a safer life, including lie. Jose has just learned that Biden repealed the enforcement of Title 42, and so he and his family make the long pilgrimage, via Mexico, to our porous Southern border. Jose has some friends and distant cousins who live in Los Angeles, and he hopes his family can make its way there undetected, at which point the Ramirezes can be infused into society with millions of other random Persons Here Illegally (PHIs). But what if Jose and his family are caught? Well, it’s very simple: they can apply for asylum, at which point their paperwork will be processed, and while they wait for their asylum hearing, they’ll be transported, courtesy of the Biden Administration, to the location of their choice – in this case, Los Angeles – on busloads with other PHIs, probably in the middle of the night so the public won’t notice (that’s not speculation; the practice is currently happening).

Some PHIs awaiting asylum hearings will in fact return, but many won’t bother. The Ramirezes might, or they might move to, say, Illinois, never to make contact with the U.S. government again.

As for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, good luck finding a guy named ‘Jose Ramirez’ out of millions with that name.

So, what exactly is so terrible about what I just described? Jose and his family are good people and eminently grateful to their new country. They’ll work hard, obey the law, and be good friends and neighbors to those around them.

To those with little or no understanding of logistics, urban planning and management, and macroeconomics, there’s nothing wrong with it. But those who realize that entering and/or remaining in the United States without authorization is unsustainable know it goes beyond “they’ll take jobs away from Americans.” And the “you’ve got something against brown people” retort is a cheap and petty shot that de-intellectualizes the discussion.

The point here is not to debate the importance of border security and immigration control, nor to list very simple compromises that can curb illegal migration significantly, while allowing for safe, well-regulated entry and stay to visitors, students, temporary workers, asylum and TPS seekers, and those eligible to gain lawful permanent residence and eventually U.S. citizenship. Rather, this week’s column suggests that we stop blaming the Jose Ramirezes of the world – who are just doing what most people in his shoes would do – and start blaming the Joe Bidens, many others in his party, and some in the Republican Party too.

There’s nothing xenophobic about having a secure fence and state-of-the-art alarm system around your home, thereby reserving the choice to you and you alone about whom you invite inside for coffee or dinner, to stay with you for a week, or even to move in permanently.


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