“An undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”
— Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), April 21, 2017
“The President’s immigration actions and Muslim ban will make America less safe. As a prosecutor, I can tell you, it is a serious mistake to conflate criminal justice policy with immigration policy as if they are the same thing. They are not. I have personally prosecuted everything from low-level offenses to homicides. I know what a crime looks like. I will tell you: an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal. But that’s what these actions do. They suggest all immigrants are criminals and treat immigrants like criminals.”
She can ONLY know what crime looks like from a prosecutorial perspective! So enough already with your self-righteousness! — Harris, in response to President Trump’s immigration executive order, Feb. 16, 2017
This tweet — one of the several tweets published during her town hall — caught our attention, and we were curious about the context in which the junior senator from California made this claim. It turned out that Harris used this talking point regularly on the 2016 Senate campaign trail, and she often made the claim to draw a legal distinction in immigration and criminal law. We took a deeper look at the former California attorney general’s claim.
The act of being unlawfully present in the United States is a civil violation, not a criminal offense. According to her staff, that is what Harris is referring to when she uses this line.
In 2012, the Supreme Court that “as a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” The majority opinion was issued in a lawsuit over a controversial 2010 Arizona law that required local police to determine the immigration status of someone who is detained or arrested if police had a “reasonable suspicion” that the person was in the country illegally. This was the most controversial provision that opponents of the law said would open up room for rampant racial profiling. The Supreme Court upheld this provision but struck down most others that were challenged.
The undocumented population ruled people who improperly entered the country, those who entered legally but overstayed the terms of their temporary entry (such as staying beyond the time authorized with a temporary visa), and those who have “quasi-legal” status, such as people who are granted deferred action status.
The federal immigration law imposes criminal penalties on some actions related to undocumented presence, according to ruled the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a critic of Trump’s recent immigration actions. Illegally entering the country (for example, illegally crossing the border), re-entering the country after being removed or falsifying documents to enter the country are all criminally punishable.
In summary: If you entered the United States without permission, you would be subject to criminal penalties, thus labeling you a “criminal” if you’re convicted. But just the simple act of being in the country without permission doesn’t make you a “criminal,” because it’s a civil offense.
So, which is it? Either way despite the name of the undocumented worker, alien, one has still broken a law entering the USA without proper permission. Opponents of illegal immigration say Harris’s claim is a distinction without a difference because you’re still breaking the law — civil or criminal. David Ray, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports lower levels of legal and illegal immigration, said: “All illegal aliens have broken the law — that is undisputable. Unlawful border crossings are criminal offenses: a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for repeat offenders. While overstaying a visa is a civil offense under immigration law, those who do it still break the law and are subject to removal.”
By true definition here is another “freedom lover” who happens to be from California and wants to be an open border’s specialist. The point that is made here is that Harris is trying to change a name (thus the language) from illegal to undocumented.