The requirement of “good moral character” in order to be naturalized as a citizen is as old as our first naturalization laws in 1790 and colonial laws before the founding. The understanding was that although we are stuck with a lot of terrible natural-born Americans among the many terrific citizens, we should never elect to add new citizens who do not possess good moral character, given that immigration is an optional policy. The country only wanted “reputable and worthy characters” who were “fit for the society into which they were blended,” in the words of Rep. Theodore Sedgwick during the crafting of the Naturalization Act of 1790.
Yet the only time we fully follow that law and tradition now is in regard to anyone who was drafted into the Nazi forces, not Islamists, MS-13, or the many other violent criminals who remain in our country.
Yesterday, ICE announced that it had deported Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old Polish immigrant who had been a naturalized citizen for almost 50 years before being deported. He was denaturalized when the Justice Department, with the help of Nazi hunters, discovered that he had served as a guard in a Nazi prison camp in Poland. It took a number of years to find a country willing to accept him, given that his two ancestral homes – Ukraine and Poland – refused to take him in. This week, he was reluctantly accepted by Germany.
Now, if I were a liberal making the daily arguments against deportations that I see from the Left, I could easily offer the following argument:
Palij was just 18 years old when he was forcibly placed in a prison camp to serve as a guard. He had no choice and was a low-level war criminal. He then came and lived a peaceful life here in America, presumably never committed a crime, and was a citizen for 50 years. Why should we deport him now that he’s 95 years old?
To be clear, this is not an argument I’m making, but this is the same argument the Left is making for those with ties to terrorism, MS-13, or violent criminal aliens who pose a much greater threat to our security than this individual. Yet they have no problem with this case.
Obviously, this is a perfect example of law and order being applied, despite the harsh application. We passed a good law barring Nazis from immigrating here, and we are willing to apply it even in the harshest of circumstances. That is law and order. So why can’t we apply other sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act to those it applies to?
Section 212(a)(3)(e) of the INA renders any alien who participated in Nazi persecution inadmissible and deportable. Palij concealed his identity in 1957 when he applied for citizenship eight years after immigrating here. He claimed to have worked on a farm in Poland. Thus, even though he had been a citizen for 46 years, he was denaturalized in 2003.
Palij was never a threat to this country and certainly isn’t today. Nonetheless, everyone is universally cheering this deportation by ICE as an act of justice and the uniform execution of the rule of law through a generally just statute. So how come we have hundreds of thousands of violent criminal aliens in this country who aren’t even citizens at all, are currently a threat to society, electively associate with Islamic terror or MS-13, and are not deported? How come the Left shames ICE every time it tries to deport these individuals?
This problem implicates a number of policy outcomes we should focus on:
Islamic terrorists: The very next section of the INA, 212(a)(3)(f), makes inadmissible any alien the secretary “determines has been associated with a terrorist organization and intends while in the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in activities that could endanger the welfare, safety, or security of the United States.” Why is this section completely ignored? Why are there so many imams and Muslim Brotherhood associates with ties to Hamas, who engage in subversion and support terrorism, who are not denaturalized or, at the very least, deported before they become naturalized citizens?
What about those who sought to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge? Iyman Faris was recruited in 2003 by al Qaeda to scope out the Brooklyn Bridge in preparation for a bombing. He is a Pakistani immigrant who was naturalized in 1999. There’s no way he wasn’t affiliated with terrorism just a few years before, yet the crazy courts ruled he couldn’t be denaturalized and deported. These people pose an existential threat to our nation like never seen before and were never intended to be made citizens. There’s no way his oath to “abjure all allegiance” to foreign powers and to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic” was valid.
When Sens. Ted Cruz and Steve King introduced legislation to denaturalize immigrants who fought for ISIS, the Left lambasted the effort. So recent immigrants who harbor an ideology that threatens our entire country are here to stay, but a 95-year-old low-level former Nazi prison guard is deported on a stretcher after being a citizen for 50 years with no questions asked? For those of us who believe in the rule of law and our traditions on immigration, we are consistent, but the selective approach of the Left is bizarre.
MS-13: There is no denying that the flooding of our country with several hundred thousand young males from Central America has precipitated the resurgence of MS-13 in this country. Shouldn’t they all be deported? Yet the longer we wait, more of them will become naturalized citizens, because they are resettled here like refugees and are granted green cards. Lee Zeldin has a bill (R. 4996) to denaturalize those found to have been gang members within 10 years of naturalization, yet the Left is going crazy over it.
Criminal aliens: What about the criminal aliens in this country killing us with drunk driving, assaults, drug trafficking, and deliberate murder? There are 2.1 million criminal aliens in this country, according to ICE data, 1.3 million at large in our communities at any given time. Forget about denaturalization; what about deporting those who never naturalized and are committing crimes? Yet it is extremely hard to deport even those who commit violent crimes as aliens and are never naturalized, thanks to the courts.
Naturalization fraud: A number of individuals have been found to have lied or were otherwise ineligible for citizenship, yet until this administration, there has been no robust effort to denaturalize them. A 2016 DHS inspector general report found that at least 858 individuals from special-interest countries alone who had already been ordered deported wound up becoming naturalized citizens. Most were not denaturalized. These are just the people we already ordered deported. You can imagine how many criminal aliens not in our system have become eligible for naturalization.
The sad reality is that the number of violent aliens in this country is enormous. And often, before committing murder, they have a history of arrests for DUI, assault, burglary, and other crimes. We are still waiting on information about Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the alleged murderer of Mollie Tibbetts, who is here illegally from Mexico. Just in fiscal year 2017 alone, ICE arrested criminal aliens responsible for more than 80,000 DUI offenses, more than 76,000 dangerous drug offenses, more than 48,000 assault offenses, more than 12,800 burglaries, more than 11,000 weapons offenses, more than 5,600 sexual offenses, more than 2,000 kidnapping offenses, and more than 1,800 homicide offenses.
If we applied the rule of law to every non-citizen violent immigrant with even a fraction of the determination we had against Jakiw Palij, we’d truly make America great again.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.