In Praise of Mark Krikorian's Honesty: Let the Child Migrants Die

Even as political leaders debate whom to blame for the surge of child migrants at the border, most agree on one goal: deporting the children as quickly as possible. Yet few advocates of their speedy removal are willing to state on the record that the children's death is a strong possibility. When Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz voiced the danger out loud, many attacked her as contradicting Obama's "detain and deport" policy.  

Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the highly conservative Center for Immigration Studies, has no problem acknowledging the risk of death. As he stated in a recent radio interview, the fact that one person loses his life after removal does not force the conclusion that others like him should be permitted to stay. Krikorian is not my ideological role model. But I salute his recognizing the consequences of his policy preferences. Krikorian wants the United States to deport people even when it amounts to a death sentence, and is willing to say so on the air.

We have long deported people who risk death in their countries of origin. That's how our immigration laws work. The legal definition of a "refugee" is very narrow, and most people who fear harm don't qualify for protection. For example, federal courts have upheld deportation orders against a Colombian baker who informed on the Cali drug cartel, and a Salvadoran restaurant worker who testified before a grand jury about gang members' setting fire to a building. In neither case did the courts express doubt that the claimants risked death if deported, or that they had performed an honorable civic service. The men simply didn't fit the legal definition of "refugee."

For years we have deported people to Haiti, despite that country's policy of incarcerating deportees with even minor U.S. criminal convictions in atrocious, life-threatening conditions. Back in 2000, a Haitian mother of two died after contracting diarrhea in a Haitian prison. More recently, in 2011, a Haitian deportee succumbed to cholera. His demise was entirely foreseeable, because we deported him during a cholera epidemic.

We also remove people to countries racked by civil war, because generalized extreme violence is not enough to obtain refugee status under our law. No matter the risks, if the applicant does not fit into narrowly specified legal categories, or has a disqualifying crime, there is no claim to stay in this country. The likelihood of death or other severe harm is not the measure.

As we all know by now, the migrant children hail from countries with some of the highest homicide rates in the world -- El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Their governments are unable to contain the murderous gangs that terrorize the citizenry. There can be no serious doubt that the children risk deadly violence at home. There is also little doubt that shoving their cases through the courts in so-called "rocket dockets" will result in the inadequate consideration of many claims.

Democrats are not allowed to admit any of this, judging by the angry reaction to Wasserman Schultz's comments. The Obama administration's policy is to detain the children, feign due process, then dispatch them to Central America as quickly as possible -- while refusing to acknowledge the consequences. In other words, it's a policy of hypocrisy. Under these circumstances, Mark Krikorian manages to occupy the high ground just by telling the truth.