The debate about border security came home to roost last week when local teacher and mother of two Sonya Jones was killed in a head-on collision with a car driven by a Guatemalan teen in the country illegally.
By all accounts, Sonya Jones, 49, was beautiful and beloved, and her life was cut short tragically when a vehicle driven by 16-year-old Domingo Francisco Marcos crossed the center line on U.S. 98 in Semmes last Monday afternoon. Police say Marcos tried to flee the scene, but his injuries prevented him from getting away. It was later learned he is in the country illegally and has been on the run from authorities for the past two years.
“Marcos was in the process of being deported back to Guatemala when he claimed asylum and was released. He was given a court date to appear on his claim of asylum and subsequently failed to appear at that court date,” a statement from Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office read. “The next contact he had with law enforcement was at the scene of the crash on Monday.”
The judge in Marcos’ case actually didn’t even order him to be deported until a year after he was a no-show for his asylum hearing. Now, there are talks of deporting him when he should be forced to stay here and face trial for killing Jones.
Naturally, Jones’ death quickly became a political football, with Alabama’s 5th District U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks landing squarely with both feet on the necks of the opposing party, declaring, “The open-borders Socialist Democrats who refuse to strengthen border security one iota have Sonya’s blood on their hands.”
First District U.S. Rep. and senatorial candidate Bradley Byrne was less sanguine, chiming in, “How many more Americans have to die before we take action to crack down on illegal immigration, secure the border and keep the American people safe? Enough is enough!”
It’s hard to argue whether Sonya Jones would be alive today if Marcos had been deported when he was first caught. The cause and effect line here is razor straight. But the blame game isn’t quite so easy.
Naturally, Trump supporters have held up this tragedy as proof positive their man has been right about building a giant border wall all along. Some seemed almost jubilant the border wall issue now has a more tangible talking point here in Southwest Alabama.
“You don’t have far to go now to see innocent death due to illegal aliens!” one frequent emailer wrote me. “In case y’all never Trumper’s (sic) missed it, Mobile mother Sonya Jones was killed in a head-on crash caused by illegal alien Domingo Marcos and he is in Mobile’s jail. So you can now get the in person story of local’s (sic) who like hundreds of families in America have lost members due to not enforcing our borders or having intelligent immigration laws.”
As someone who thinks both parties have their nether regions caught in a bike chain when it comes to border security, it’s easy to understand the desire to quickly cast blame upon the party that has blocked Donald Trump’s wall. But does Trump also not bear some of the blame for the stalemate over border security by running on the ridiculous notion that he was going to build a giant wall and make Mexico pay for it?
Clearly the “let’s make Mexico pay for it” part is out the window as he’s now asked billions for construction, but the damage was done when border security became more about political victory than actually doing something about the issue. Trump wanted a fight over a border wall and the Democrats were dumb enough to give him one, so in the meantime most of what’s happened around the issue is posturing.
Contrary to what my emailer thinks, I’m hardly an open borders believer. To my way of thinking, there has to be a process for people to enter the country legally — even if that is as a guest worker here to do all the things Americans really don’t want to do. (You don’t need much of a memory to recall crops rotting statewide after a state immigration law spooked the illegals who normally pick our fruit and veggies.)
Reasonable people can disagree about the best ways to handle illegal crossings at the border. Most of us have never been there and tend to react viscerally to whatever we’re told is happening there.
It makes no sense to allow people to enter the country illegally when there are millions in line to do so through proper channels. But is there still some way to help those people who are truly seeking asylum from death and violence in their home countries without a tragedy like Jones’ death? That’s where leadership comes in.
Politicians on both sides have hardened their positions to extremes. Democrats who once understood open borders as a danger to our citizens now act as if we should let anyone wander in and line up at the next election. Republicans blindly follow Trump’s win-at-all-costs efforts to build a massive 2,000-mile wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico with no thought about whether that would be truly effective or practical, and no concern about the property rights violated along the way.
Changes in what we’re doing are needed, and Trump is “more right” on this issue than are those who appear to want open borders, or at the minimum no changes in what we’re doing. But pushing government shutdowns and declaring a national emergency — a genie that will never be put back in its bottle — versus actually working with Congress has made the president ineffective as well in solving this problem. Winning has become more important than leading smart, effective changes.
Any time an American citizen is hurt or killed by someone in the country illegally, it’s a “what if” moment. Frankly, even if Trump’s wall legislation had been passed immediately when he took office in January 2017, it’s doubtful anything would have been in place to stop Marcos from entering the country later that year. It seems in this case the asylum process is more at issue and deserves the most scrutiny.
But as long as both sides are more interested in using the illegal immigration issue to pander to their most extreme wings, there’s not much hope for reasonable introspection or action on the issue. It’s safe to say, in that regard, both sides have Sonya Jones’ blood on their hands.
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