The Nation Shows Facts No Longer Matter in Immigration Debate

By John Miano on April 26, 2020

The Nation magazine provides us with yet another illustration showing that the facts no longer matter in political debate any more. Last week the Supreme Court held that a longtime Jamaican permanent resident who had committed crimes was not eligible for cancellation of removal and can be deported. (See Andrew Arthur's detailed analysis of the ruling here.)

The Nation describes the facts this way:

Andre Barton is a Jamaican-born man in his mid-40s, and he's been living in the United States since he was around 10 years old. He and his mother came here legally. Barton is a legal permanent resident — a green card holder. He is a father to four children and owns a small business. Barton is an American immigrant success story by most definitions of that concept.

But it didn't always look like he was going to be. In 1996, when he was a teenager, Barton was convicted of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm. Apparently, his friend shot a gun into Barton's ex-girlfriend's house; Barton claimed he didn't know the friend was armed. Later, in the aughts, it would appear that Barton developed a substance abuse problem. He was convicted on two drug possession charges.

After that, Barton found his way, graduated from college, and went on to live his life. He was never in trouble with the law again.

Until the Trump administration got its hands on him.

Here are some excerpts that further illustrate the tone of The Nation article:

The case is a purposeful reminder that white people can reach into your life and destroy it, if they feel like it.


[T]he Trump administration can be distinguished for the cruel and borderline absurdist lengths it goes to in order to strike fear in the hearts and minds of immigrants of color.

I expect that anyone who reads the whole article will find that these quotes accurately reflect the nature of the article and are not incendiary only because they are taken out of context.

Switching to the legal issues, an alien who commits certain crimes is deportable.

These include drug crimes and firearms crimes. There was no question that Barton was deportable.

However, the Department of Justice has the discretion to cancel removal under certain conditions.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Justice Department could consider whether Barton could remain in the country. Even if Barton was eligible for cancellation of removal, that would not mean he would automatically be able to remain in the United States. Under the interpretations of all of the courts of appeals that considered the issue (except for the Ninth Circuit), Barton was not eligible for cancellation of removal. The Supreme Court adopted the prevailing interpretation of the statutes.

In total, 15 judges looked at the question in courts of appeals and 12 of them came to the same conclusion that the Supreme Court did.

Returning to The Nation's account of events, there is a little problem in its narrative. The Nation writes that "In 2016, 10 years after his last arrest, the government started deportation hearings against Barton based on the old possession convictions."

The Nation missed the obvious: Donald Trump was not president in 2016. It was the Obama administration that determined Barton's actions were worthy of deportation. Because this is an immigration case, the court documents are sealed so it is not known why the Obama administration decided to seek Barton's removal.

The Eleventh Circuit's statement of the facts is also worth reviewing:

Andre Martello Barton is a native and citizen of Jamaica. Barton was initially admitted to the United States on May 27, 1989, as a B-2 visitor for pleasure; approximately three years later, he successfully adjusted his status to lawful permanent resident. Since his admission, Barton has run afoul of the law on several occasions. Initially, on January 23, 1996 — for reasons that will become clear, the dates matter — Barton was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of first-degree criminal damage to property and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was convicted of all three offenses in July 1996. Then, a little more than a decade later — first in 2007 and then again in 2008 — Barton was charged with and convicted of violating the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. (For present purposes, only Barton's 1996 crimes are relevant to determining whether he is eligible for cancellation of removal. Barton's 2007 and 2008 offenses occurred more than seven years after his admission to the United States — which, as we will explain, is the pertinent timeframe for establishing continuous residence under the cancellation statute.)

Does Barton make a case for changing the statutes?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In any event, immigration issues cannot be debated rationally when the nation's media alters the facts to fit a racism narrative.

Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat (Those whom a god wishes to destroy he first drives mad).