Undermining U.S. sovereignty over immigration

A U.N. compact seeks to make migration a matter of global governance

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 7, 2017

The Washington Times, October 23, 2017

In his Sept. 19 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump highlighted the importance of national sovereignty, declaring: "Strong sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their destiny." Given its direct relationship to economic and population growth, immigration policy is the most fundamental way that "nations let their people control their destiny." Ironically, however, exactly one year before that speech, the U.N. began a process to undermine U.S. sovereignty over immigration and contradict U.S. law.

On Sept. 19, 2016, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, in which it "decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration," to be adopted in 2018. That "global compact would set out a range of principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration in all its dimensions [and] deal with all aspects of international migration, including the humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related and other aspects of migration."

Many dealings between nations should be subject to international norms, including commerce, trade and diplomacy. Immigration, however, is not one of them. Migration patterns are not uniform, and certain countries receive more migrants, both legal and illegal, than others.

As a judge, I heard cases involving aliens from around the world. Obama administration policies encouraged these aliens to venture to the Southwest border from Africa, Asia and Latin America to enter the United States illegally. As a result, between 2014 and 2016, illegal immigration was largely unchecked.

In response, the American people elected a president who promised to bring immigration under control. The proposed U.N. "global compact" threatens to undermine those efforts, however. Applying the same principles to entry into the United States as to, for example, Bangladesh or Mali, would create an unworkable enforcement regime along the U.S. border. That appears to be the goal of the proposed global compact, however. As Paragraph 49 of the declaration states, the U.N. "commit[s] to strengthening global governance of migration."

In addition to undermining our national sovereignty on immigration, principles in that declaration would actually exacerbate the problems that the global compact is intended to address.

For example, Paragraph 33 states that the U.N. "will consider reviewing policies that criminalize cross-border movements," and "will pursue alternatives to detention while these assessments are under way." The threat of criminal penalties, however, have proven to be a strong deterrent to illegal entry, and detention is often the only way to ensure appearance for removal. Limiting or eliminating these tools will simply encourage more illegal entry. Similarly, that paragraph would encourage illegal entry by alien minors, especially those who are gang members.

Further, Paragraph 57 would have direct impacts on U.S. immigration law. It states that the U.N. "will pay particular attention to the application of minimum labor standards for migrant workers regardless of their status." This appears inconsistent with Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which makes the employment of unauthorized aliens illegal.

Paragraph 58 of the declaration also appears to be inconsistent with the INA. It "encourage[s]" the return of "migrants who do not have permission to stay preferably on a voluntary basis, taking into account national legislation in line with international law." Under the INA, removal of unauthorized aliens is the rule, while voluntary departure is a discretionary privilege.

The president made a strong argument for national sovereignty at the U.N. His administration must now defend that principle before the same body.