For several years now, I’ve been taking issue with folks who think that illegal immigration is ipso facto a federal crime. It’s not.
In and of itself, illegal immigration is a civil matter, which means it’s ruled by civil law, not criminal law. Immigration cases are heard in front of an administrative law judge, not a criminal judge.
During the 2008 president race, Rudy Giuliani said this about illegal immigration:
“It’s not a crime. I know that’s very hard for people to understand, but it’s not a federal crime. I was U.S. attorney in the Southern district of New York. So believe me, I know this. In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it’s not a criminal proceeding. It’s a civil proceeding.”
And now the U.S. Supreme has said basically the same thing. The high court, in its ruling today overturning much of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, said “it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”
Even Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent from the majority opinion on the Arizona law, said this of illegal immigration: “It is not a federal crime, to be sure.”