Extend Legal Standing to Citizens

Published on July 22nd, 2014

Many patriotic immigration reformers ask why it is that American citizens don’t initiate lawsuits against the federal government to require enforcement of immigration laws. They note that open border groups constantly sue the government on behalf of illegal aliens to prevent effective enforcement, and quite often they win.

The shortest answer is that under our law, citizens are second class to illegal aliens when it comes to the legal issue of “standing” on immigration law. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, standing is “the right of people to challenge the conduct of another person in court.” Commonly it involves a claim from the challenger that he has suffered some loss as the result of the other person’s action.

Unfortunately, federal law now seems to preclude standing by citizens to secure immigration law enforcement. Specifically, notes a recent paper by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the law states that “No cause or claim may be asserted . . . against any official of the United States of any state to compel the release, removal, or consideration for release or removal of any alien.”

The CIS paper argues that this prohibition would make sense if we had authorities who are making an effort in good faith to uphold the law, but this is not the case with the Obama Administration. To bolster this point the paper cited the testimony before Congress of Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “I believe,” he stated, “that President Barack Obama has crossed the constitutional line between discretionary enforcement and defiance of federal law. . . .” He added that “[The Administration] appears to be relying on the expectation that no one will be able to secure standing to challenge such decisions in court.”

The paper rightly argues that there is “something pernicious about a notion of standing so limited that it construes United States citizens as having no definable, tangible personal interest in the future of their country.” In many instances, citizens have become victims of crimes by illegal aliens, and most certainly they would seem to have standing as injured parties when willful suspension of immigration law enforcement caused their injuries. This body of citizens is large, and most probably it will continue to grow.

Last year the Obama Administration released 36,000 convicted criminal aliens from custody who were scheduled for deportation. A very small number of these releases were required by law, but the vast majority was not. Authorities in these instances simply used their own discretion to let them go. In some cases, the releases appeared to be in violation of the law. Among these lawbreakers were 16,000 individuals with drunk or drugged-driving convictions. Thousands of others committed serious felonies, including homicide, assault, robbery and sexual offenses. These individuals now live among us.

Congress must change the status quo by amending the law to give aggrieved citizens explicit legal standing to sue for immigration law enforcement. By doing so, Congress can take a step to assert its proper constitutional authority against the administration’s arbitrary actions on immigration.

Illegal alien advocates of course will oppose this idea. They know well that if even a small number of citizen victims file suit it will significantly complicate their agenda. Citizens will have to inform them, in no uncertain terms, that second class standing is unacceptable.

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