I mean, just watch the clip. She’s not wrong.
Would you want your kids sent to a government facility after they were separated from you, asks Sen. Mazie Hirono of ICE bigwig Matthew Albence. To which Albence counters: What choice would I have? That’s what happens when you break the law and you’re held for committing a crime. To which Hirono says, “They have broken a law only as deemed so by the president…” What?
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
That same statute goes on to provide civil penalties as well, as Albence notes. In the past, the feds would typically enforce only the civil penalties. Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, they began enforcing the criminal penalties too. That’s what necessitated separating parents from children, who can’t be held in criminal facilities. And that’s what Hirono’s getting at, I think, when she weirdly claims that illegals have broken the law “but only as deemed so by the president.” Trump chose to enforce the entire statute, yeah, but it was her own branch that wrote the law deeming illegal entry a crime, as unhappy as it might make the modern open-borders incarnation of the Democratic Party to be reminded of that. Trump implemented the law Congress handed to him instead of ignoring the statute as a matter of prosecutorial discretion — which is another way of saying that he did his job, at least until the political backlash over child separation got too intense.
If Democrats don’t like it, they can always introduce a bill eliminating the criminal penalties under section 1325 and see how that flies politically. Or, better yet, they could do something really radical like work with the GOP on deterring illegal immigrants from trying to enter the country in the first place, eliminating any child-separation scenarios. But that would contradict a core Democratic mission, like working with Republicans to reduce abortion.
All Albence is saying ultimately is that there are two steps under the statute, first criminal prosecution and then disposition of the person’s immigration claim. Under “zero tolerance,” you get both. Under business-as-usual America, you get just the latter. Again, if Hirono doesn’t like Trump having the option to do both, float a bill that would take the prosecution power away. Or come up with something that would allow families to be detained together indefinitely during the civil proceeding in lieu of catch-and-release. If Trump had that option, he might have felt less inclined to try “zero tolerance” in the first place.