During my years as district attorney, I have often spoken out about the problem of illegal immigration and the need to enforce our laws. I have always directed Northampton County law enforcement to cooperate with ICE, and I have sparred with immigration officials who failed to do their jobs.
Illegal immigration for me has always been about crime and security. Although the majority of people who enter the United States illegally are people only looking for a better life, the reality is there are also hundreds of thousands of foreign criminals who have also entered our country illegally as well.
The MS-13 Gang and other gangs engaged in murder, drug trafficking, human trafficking, sexual assault and other crimes have exploited an insecure border and lax immigration enforcement.
We have encountered some of these criminals here in Northampton County. Members of the MS-13 Gang have surfaced here, and some time ago, my office picked up an illegal criminal alien who was wanted on a murder charge in Broward County, Florida.
Foreign criminals infiltrating our communities only adds to our crime problems. I have always believed, and still do, that we need to enforce our immigration laws and not give incentives for more illegal entry into our country.
Today, however, I want to address an issue, while related, is somewhat different. The issue is what to do with the “dreamers” — individuals named after the DREAM Act Bill who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were young children.
There are now approximately 800,000 individuals who are in the United States without legal status through no fault of their own.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is now being debated in Washington, D.C.
To be eligible for DACA, an individual cannot have a felony or a serious misdemeanor conviction.
I have written a letter to President Donald Trump encouraging him to help solve this issue by agreeing to sign a DACA bill without conditions — a stand-alone bill.
The fact is it is just plain wrong to penalize hundreds of thousands of folks who did nothing wrong. These are not people who knowingly violated our laws by illegally entering the country.
These are not people who have criminal records. Rather, they are individuals who entered the country through no fault of their own. They were too young to make their own decisions. They have grown up in the United States of America and know no other country. The majority of them are employed. Quite frankly, it would be wrong to return these individuals to their country of origin, a place they have never known. Their status is completely different, and they should not be treated the same as those individuals who on their own intentionally made a decision to run across the border in violation of our law and thereafter committed criminal acts in the United States.
Like all agencies, ICE has limited resources. At this time, we still have hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who entered knowingly, on their own, and who came here to engage in criminal acts not productive work. ICE resources should first be focused on removing dangerous foreign criminals. DACA eligible individuals are not in that class.
Further, the estimated number of 800,000 individuals who would be eligible represents about 1 percent of our overall population. Giving some legal status to them without conditions would have no negative impact. To the contrary, it would be the right thing to do.
The president is right to want a secure border but he is wrong in using these innocent dreamers as hostages and human pawns in a chess match with the Democrats.
America must be a secure country but we also must continue to be a compassionate country.
It is my hope that President Trump and members of Congress will be able to resolve this matter.
Editor’s note: John Morganelli is the Northampton County district attorney.