“An Immigrant’s Christmas Eve” Shows Why Discretion Is a Critical Part of a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System

Writing in The New York Times op-ed section, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, the general counsel of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, tells the harrowing tale of what life was like escaping Iran after the revolution and coming to the United States. Like so many asylum seekers today, Tali’s family was seeking to find refuge here. But unlike today’s asylum seekers, when they arrived, there was no family separation; no “Remain in Mexico” policy turning back asylum seekers to languish in dangerous conditions in Mexico; and none of the harshness of asylum policy under the Trump administration. Instead, an official of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the precursor to today’s Department of Homeland Security, exercised discretion and allowed them to enter the country and make their case for protection. As Tali writes “[B]lind enforcement is not what it means to live in a society of laws … Not every crime should lead to punishment … Law enforcement requires us to exercise our humanity and sense of justice.” Exercising the type of discretion that allowed Tali’s family to seek asylum in the United States has always been a critical part of mitigating the harshness of our broken immigration policy and injecting humanity into the system. But under the Trump administration, that discretion has been all but erased. Restoring it is critical step toward establishing an immigration system that is fair, humane, and workable.

For more on how to reframe the immigration debate, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”