This may be Ann Coulter’s worst summer ever. First, she wrote a series of inane diatribes attacking soccer. Then she defamed principled conservatives and supported corrupt establishment Republicans. Coulter falsely accused another journalist of plagiarism, a charge utterly without merit. She later vilified liberal Christians as “moral show-offs” for exhibiting compassion toward illegals on the border.
Coulter claimed to have discovered a hitherto unknown concept which she called “anti-logic.”
Now Coulter claims to have uncovered the truth about the border crisis – a truth conspiratorially hidden by both political parties and a complicit press.
In her most recent column, Coulter accused the entire media – from the New York Times to Fox News – of lying about the loophole which allows Central American children to receive special treatment at the border.
According to Coulter, “But there is no such loophole.”
Having made that startling claim, she frets, “The fact that people on both sides of the aisle are telling the same lie about this law is worrisome. Are Republicans being tricked into thinking we need an emergency bill …”?
She claims to have read the law (implying others have not), citing the relevant portion:
“Any unaccompanied alien child sought to be removed by the Department of Homeland Security, except for an unaccompanied alien child from a contiguous country shall be – placed in removal proceedings … eligible for relief … at no cost to the child and provided access to counsel.”
The Loophole’s Definition
Coulter denied this “non-existent loophole” and argued for its non-existence due to the definition of “unaccompanied alien child,” which, according to the 2008 law she cites, is defined thus:
(2) the term ‘unaccompanied alien child’ means a child who –
(A) has no lawful immigration status in the United States;
(B) has not attained 18 years of age; and
(C) with respect to whom –
(i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.”
Coulter’s Wrong Analysis
Coulter concludes that the bulk of this massive group of children crossing our border can be immediately returned because they don’t fit the definition of “unaccompanied alien child.”
Coulter asserts, “But the law’s definition of ‘unaccompanied alien child’ limits the hearings to kids who have no relatives in the United States.”
She continues, “No law needs to be fixed. The only thing that needs to be fixed is the president.”
She adds, lest we fail to get the point, “Any Republicans pushing for an immigration bill to seal an imaginary loophole aren’t fighting Obama; they’re helping him.”
Where Coulter Went Wrong
At first blush, her reasoning seems sound. Sounds reasonable. And legal.
But it isn’t.
Her statement about limiting “the hearings to kids who have no relatives in the United States” is flat out wrong – on two counts.
(In full disclosure, I am not a lawyer, and I do not play one on TV.)
First, there are matters of the law’s interpretation and implementation.
The Bipartisan Policy Center put out a paper, “Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Primer,” which addresses the salient issues. It notes,
“Although many of the children may already have family inside of the United States, current practice by DHS classifies children as unaccompanied ‘if neither a parent or legal guardian (with a court-order to that effect) is with the juvenile at the time of apprehension, or within a geographical proximity’ to care for the juvenile. According to interviews conducted with DHS officials in 2006, ‘if a parent or legal guardian is not present to provide care (or cannot be present within a short period of time) that child is technically considered unaccompanied and processed accordingly.’”
Remember the definition: “no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.” That qualification addresses the humanitarian concerns involved and resulted in the implementation noted above.
Coulter’s non-existent loophole exists.
Second, the definition is specific to “no parent or legal guardian.” That specificity created unintended complications. What about non-parent family members? Coulter expanded the law to read: “no relatives in the United States.” But the law expressly addresses “parents.”
As noted by BPC, the “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2014 would change the “definition of UAC. Children will not be considered unaccompanied if they have a sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or cousin over 18 years of age available to provide care. Currently only children without a parent or legal guardian are considered unaccompanied.”
Yes, Coulter’s non-existent loophole exists.
UPDATE: Upon further reflection, Coulter’s loophole column is rather loopy. Being a lawyer for more than a quarter-century and a journalist for almost two decades, Coulter should now know how to do basic fact-checking.
Coulter should have asked herself whether she might be wrong or there might be more to the story. Instead, Coulter chose to believe that she and she alone – of all the people in the world – both knew there was no loophole and had the courage to speak the truth about it.
Coulter chose to believe that everyone else – from CNN to Fox News, from Harry Reid to Ted Cruz, from Nancy Pelosi to Michele Bachmann – was lying about a phony loophole. Furthermore, this grand conspiracy – among establishment Republicans and Tea Party alike – was designed to open the U.S. borders to all people.
Checking facts, Ann, is easier than you think. You might try it sometime.