In response to criticism over the separation of parents and children, and the detainment of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement insisted that his officers should not be compared to Nazis because they are just following orders—which was the same argument used by Nazi officials.
During an interview on Fox News with Tucker Carlson, ICE Director Thomas Homan was asked what he thinks about critics who compare today’s border patrol agents to soldiers who forced innocent people into concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II.
“I think it’s an insult to the brave men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE to call law enforcement officers, Nazis. They are simply enforcing the laws enacted by Congress,” Homan said.
The claim that Border Patrol agents who separate mothers and children are “simply enforcing the laws” is notable because Nazi soldiers who sent Jews to concentration camps knowing that they would be tortured to death, and American soldiers who arrested Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps because of their race, were also “simply enforcing the laws.”
In fact, the argument that law enforcement officers were “just following orders” is referred to as the “Nuremberg Defense,” after it was successfully used by several Nazi officials who claimed they were “simply following the orders of a higher authority,” when they were tried in court after World War II in Nuremberg, Germany.
Instead of focusing on the question of whether separating parents and young children is morally wrong, Homan attempted to call attention to the Americans who are killed by illegal immigrants and insisted that their family members should be the ones in the spotlight.
“I wish I heard this much outrage when we met with angel mothers and fathers whose children were killed by illegal aliens,” Homan said. “Your citizen children killed and separated from their parents forever. I never heard this outrage, so I think people on the Hill need to straighten themselves out. Let’s protect American citizens are much as you’re fighting for illegal aliens.”
While there are cases where illegal immigrants do kill American citizens, research suggests that “illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems” in the United States, according to numerous academic studies on the subject.
One of the studies, which was conducted by the Cato Institute and looked specifically at undocumented immigrants in Texas, found that in 2015, “the criminal conviction and arrest rates in Texas for undocumented immigrants were lower than those of native-born Americans for murder, sexual assault, and larceny.”
Homan then addressed the argument that the families who are crossing the U.S. border are fleeing violence at home. He insisted Americans should “put the blame where it lies—not on the fine men and women of ICE. We’re enforcing the law.”
“What no one is talking about is the underlying reason for this who argument—are these families really escaping fear and persecution?” Homan said. “The immigration court has said in the last year and a half that over 80 percent of these claims are frivolous, so first of all, we’ve got to attack the very foundation that they’re arguing people are coming to their country. These parents themselves are using these children as pawns to gain entry to the United States knowing that we can’t detain them.”
Homan completely ignored the fact that there is a legitimate problem with the way immigration cases are being handled in court. As Washington State Rep. Pramila Jayapa noted last week, many asylum-seekers are being taken to Bureau of Prisons federal facilities, and when they go before a judge, they go in groups of up to 100, and they are not allowed to plead their individual cases.
While seeking asylum is not illegal, the fact that the women are being tried in criminal courts instead of immigration courts is raising concerns that they will not be able to receive asylum if they plead guilty to illegally crossing the border.
“They’re not allowed to speak themselves,” Jayapal said. “There’s only one argument made for all of them. There’s only one public defender for all of them. This is a huge problem. One thing also of concern is they are pleading guilty of the crime of crossing the border. Well, when you seek asylum, if you have a criminal record, you don’t qualify for asylum.”
As long as soldiers, border patrol agents, and domestic police officers continue to claim that they are “just following orders,” there will continue to be cases where civil rights are violated, children are harmed, innocent individuals are imprisoned, and humanity is ignored because law enforcement officers are “simply enforcing the law.”