I will confess to a certain uneasiness with the general proposition that illegal immigration is a civil rights issue. To equate the plight of aliens who choose to cross our borders unlawfully with the civil rights issues raised by slavery and its aftermath bears the same kind of tone-deafness people exhibit when comparing lesser modern social or political ills with the evils of the Holocaust.
For this reason, I am suspicious of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's motives in tackling a controversial issue such as detention of aliens in pursuit of border control in recent report, "With Liberty and Justice for All: The State of Civil Rights and Immigration Detention Facilities".
Why not leave this subject to other government entities better poised to examine the matter in-depth and with dispassion — for instance, watchdog agencies such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) or the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG)? The answer, I fear, is in pursuing agendas, in the most pejorative sense of the word.
The report is a nasty piece of work; the words "deceptive" and "sleazy" leap to mind because it is replete with innuendo, unproven allegations, allegations that were in fact determined to be unfounded by the DHS OIG when investigated, and specious arguments masquerading as "fact". It is also a hefty tome at 124 pages, not counting appendices and commissioner statements. One supposes their hope was that what can't be proven objectively in a succinct manner can perhaps be given weight (literally) in the court of public opinion by pounds of pages, but this inept and shady attempt to skew facts to fit anti-detention objectives serves no one in the debate.
I want to make clear what many readers already know from my previous writings: I support immigration detention as an appropriate policy in pursuit of a rational immigration control strategy, while at the same time understanding that it must be undertaken as humanely as anything can be that deprives individuals of their liberty. That's why I don't want you to take my word for how seriously flawed and outrageous this report is.
Look instead at the dissent of Civil Rights Commissioner Gail Heriot. (You'll have to look carefully to find Commissioner Heriot's dissent; it was buried, I suspect deliberately, in between other commissioner "statements" as a way of trying to hide it.) It is articulate, detailed, and damning of the report and its underpinnings:
Long before any evidence was gathered, the Chairman's proposal to undertake this study had already concluded that "egregious human rights and constitutional violations continue to occur in detention facilities." That proposal was adopted by the Commission on July 25, 2014.
The Commission thus went into this project intent on uncovering a scandal. Instead of conducting an actual investigation, it structured its initial fact-finding simply to amplify stale rumor and innuendo. No effort was undertaken to establish whether the allegations — all of which were already public — were fact or fancy. The point was simply to give the witnesses an opportunity to make the allegations again at our briefing on January 30, 2015 — this time before the C-Span cameras.
Later in her dissent, Commissioner Heriot says this:
If you wonder why Democrats and Republicans in Washington can't come together to get things done, over-the-top rhetoric like this is certainly a part of the reason. Most of the detainees had no complaints whatsoever. Those that did have complaints were balanced in the way they made their complaints. It's too bad members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights can't be as level-headed.
Not only was the methodology of the report flawed and the adverse conclusions it arrived at predetermined, it also appears that the chairman did everything in his power to sandbag her effort to pen an adequate dissent:
The fact that I have not critiqued every aspect of this report should not be taken as agreement with those aspects I failed to discuss. It is simply a matter of lack of time before the deadline for Commissioner's statement, which was shortened from the usual 30 days from date on which the Commission adopts the final draft of the report.
If the irregular abbreviation of deadlines was an attempt to preclude Commissioner Heriot from having the time or means to lay her objections out in writing in a meaningful way, it was a failure. Her dissent should be mandatory reading for anyone who examines the report. Read Heriot's statement as a stand-alone file here.
Her fellow commissioner Peter Kirsanow also submitted a dissenting statement. To give you a taste of his reaction to the Commission's report, here is the concluding paragraph:
Like mold on food left in the refrigerator for too long, the report has spread into an attack on the enforcement of the country's immigration laws, and perhaps on their very existence. Much of the report is at least intellectually dishonest, other parts simply dishonest. This report is outside the Commission's jurisdiction and therefore most of this report is illegitimate.
We should not be surprised at the audacity of this hit job masquerading as a report, I suppose. This isn't the first commission of the Obama administration in which the deck was stacked, and in which commissioners or task force members went out looking for whatever they could find to fit their predetermined conclusions — or that stretched to take on the emotionally laden subject of immigration, even though it is tangential to their raison d'etre. We saw the same sad situation, where a jumble of "facts" are thrown into a sack willy-nilly and then stretched to achieve a desired anti-immigration-enforcement objective, with the president's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. (See here and here.)
One senses the veiled hand of White House Domestic Policy Adviser (and former La Raza executive and notorious open-borders advocate) Cecilia Munoz behind these efforts. But the Civil Rights Commission's report is a particularly malignant example of this kind of agenda pushing because it taints the noble cause of advancing civil rights in America.
Once upon a time, the civil rights landscape in the United States was peopled with giants whose contributions to equality and freedom were immeasurable. One such giant was Barbara Jordan, who broke racial and gender barriers in nearly all of the political positions she held, and along the way did much to ensure that the nation's civil rights laws were expanded and modernized. One of Jordan's lasting contributions to American society was, ironically, after she had retired from active political life: In 1994 she was tapped by President Bill Clinton to head the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.
Jordan was a towering figure whose intellectual and moral compasses were unassailable, but who also possessed a practical streak that allowed her to connect with people. She used her powers of oratory as tools of suasion to lead American society toward fairness and justice while maintaining a hefty dose of common sense.
One cannot imagine Jordan ever condoning or participating in the kind of sham that the Civil Rights Commission's new report represents. Compare, for example, their meager effort with that of her commission's report on illegal immigration (only one of several the "Jordan Commission" issued).
As I said, once upon a time the civil rights landscape was peopled with giants. Sadly, those days seem to be gone if the majority of members sitting on the present Civil Rights Commission is any measure.
The hatchet job that the Commission's immigration detention report represents is so transparent and inept, and the "facts" it has used are so threadbare, that responsible journalists, and even opponents of alien detention, would do well to steer away from citing from it. They won't, but they should.