Cognitive Dissonance Still Drives the Immigration Debate

A number of times in the past, FAIR has pointed out that advocates for unlimited mass migration have a tendency to skew towards cognitive dissonance – the belief that two contradictory propositions are true. That alarming propensity seems to increase with each day that President Trump is in office.

A recent piece by the Marshall Project is a perfect example. Hyperbolically titled “Sending Even More Immigrants to Prison,” it advances the ridiculous notion that all immigration enforcement is a symptom of xenophobia, rather than a legitimate policy choice. Then it makes two wildly incongruous claims:

  • First, the article states that the United States has always been tough on illegal immigration, prosecuting large numbers of illegal aliens for improper entry.
  • Then the piece suggests that the Trump administration’s decision to continue using federal criminal prosecutions as a deterrent to illegal migration constitutes some type of radical change in policy.

But these claims can’t simultaneously be true. Either the Trump administration is departing radically from the traditional approaches to immigration enforcement or it isn’t. What does history say?

While U.S. Attorneys under the Obama administration may have prosecuted criminal aliens in federal court, President Obama’s incongruously-named “Priority Enforcement Program” prohibited U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from arresting all but the most violent alien felons. Similarly, the Obama administration instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to refrain from arresting most illegal aliens. Meanwhile, the majority of those who were arrested by CBP were promptly released to the interior of the United States. So even if the Obama Department of Justice did prosecute alien smugglers and human traffickers, it can hardly be said to have been tough on illegal aliens generally.

Compared to the Obama administration, which was fecklessly tolerant of alien criminals, suspected foreign terrorists and violent gang-members, Team Trump is branching out in a radical new direction. But it is only revolutionary when contrasted with the irresponsible migration policies of past chief executives. The Trump administration is simply applying our immigration laws the way Congress wrote them.

The number of immigration prosecutions in federal court do appear to have increased over the last year. But any current upsurge in federal court immigration prosecutions appears to be directly attributable to increases in illegal border crossings. In essence, more illegal aliens mean more prosecutions for improper entry. However, more prosecutions don’t indicate a decreased acceptance of immigrants, they simply mean reduced tolerance for immigration violators.

Of course, the Marshall Project refuses to accept the notion that deterring illegal border crossings is a legitimate immigration policy objective. It also fails to address the fact that reasons other than xenophobia – like public safety and national security – might serve as the basis for increasing immigration enforcement.

Because, doing so wouldn’t further the narrative that the Trump administration is at war with immigrants. And that narrative is the only tool available to the open-borders lobby when it tries to counter Team Trump’s immigration enforcement success stories.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

1 Comment

  1. avatar
    Blanca Shalhoub on

    It is sad to see how this president has it against the Latinos when the real problem are the home grown terrorist that the president has given the go an is ok to do all what they have been doing but lets go after the immigrants hope all the Anglos will see how wrong they are It will take more kids dying in the hands of this people for them to open their eyes