Here’s an exchange (edited slightly for spacing) between Senator Mazie Hirono (D, HI) and ICE Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations Matthew Albence as the latter testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary last Tuesday.
Albence: I think we’re missing the point. These individuals are there because they have broken a law.
Hirono interrupted, insisting that the illegal immigrants being held in the detention centers “have broken a law only as deemed so by” President Donald Trump.
Albence: No, Ma’am—they are there for violation of Title VIII of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, OK? That’s illegal entry; it’s both a criminal and civil violation. They are in those [detention centers] pending the outcome of that civil immigration process. They have broken the law.
Hirono: My understanding is that under zero tolerance these are no longer civil proceedings, but in fact are criminal proceedings. Is that so?
Albence: They were criminal proceedings when the Border Patrol prosecuted them. But at the conclusion of that process—once the individual came into ICE custody—they would go through administrative proceedings.
Hirono: I’m confused.
That law, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, is 66 years old, and it’s been enforced with varying degrees of diligence for all of those two-thirds of a century.
Hirono knows this. Her pretended confusion says volumes about her; sadly, it adds not a syllable to any necessary discussion about our immigration laws and the appropriate disposition of those who break them.