In a story that is becoming increasingly commonplace, ICE agents deported the father of two young American citizens to the West African nation of Gambia last week. Buba Jabbi, 41, was married to Katrina Jabbi, also an American citizen, who is pregnant with the couple's third child.
It's tempting to for many to say, “Good riddance” to Mr. Jabbi, who entered the country legally in 1995, but overstayed his tourist visa. However, a closer look reveals the broken nature of current US immigration law.
Mr. Jabbi came to the US in 1995 to attend the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and never left. Per USA Today, Jabbi eventually wound up in Wisconsin working as a truck driver. He met Katrina in 2009 and they married in 2013. They currently have two daughters, Nalia, 5, and Aisha, 1.
Jabbi tried for years to become a legal resident of the US. After filing the paperwork incorrectly, he was subjected to removal proceedings, receiving a final order of removal in 2010. His deportation was delayed for years because Gambia refused to provide travel documents for his return. While he waited, he was given orders of supervision and a work authorization. He was required to report to ICE annually. It was on one of these visits that Jabbi was detained last month and subsequently deported.
"We were confident that [Buba] doesn't have a criminal record and that he's working, there is no trouble with our family." Katrina told WAOW News in Wisconsin. "We were confident we would be able to sort this out in the next few years."
Jabbi was not accused of a crime. “Overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense,” wrote Elizabeth Kozycki, an immigration attorney, on Avvo.com. The offense is a civil violation and a not a criminal one under current US law.
Nevertheless, Nolo.com points out that current US law does not provide exceptions for illegal immigrants who are married to American citizens. Illegals who have been in the US for more than a year or who have returned illegally after being deported must wait 10 years after they last left the US to apply for re-entry.
Does the penalty of deportation and exile for at least a decade fit the civil offense of overstaying a visa? It does not seem so.
Mr. Jabbi was not a criminal and had no violent history. He was gainfully employed and providing for his wife and daughters who are all US citizens. Mrs. Jabbi is employed part-time. The odds are that she will now need government assistance to provide for her children in the absence of their father.
In deporting Mr. Jabbi, the federal government not only incurred thousands of dollars of legal costs, it deprived the economy of a willing worker who was contributing to the good of the nation as well as his family. Mr. Jabbi's absence will likely add four people who had been part of a self-sustaining family to the entitlement rolls.
The lack of a father figure also leads to bad outcomes for children. Children of absent fathers often make poor life choices that lead to substance abuse and becoming single parents themselves. This perpetuates the cycle of entitlements and adds to growing national debt.
Those who say that immigrants should just “follow the law” and “get in line” fail to understand that the current law is unworkable. Even before the Trump Administration reduced the number of legal visas, wait times for legal immigrants could take decades. The State Department visa bulletin notes that an unmarried Mexican child of a US permanent resident would have to wait 21 years merely to file an application for an immigrant visa. For people who came to the US illegally, there is no clear path to legalization unless they fall within the exceptions granted by the DACA program. The future of DACA is currently in doubt as well.
While the federal government has the right and duty to control its borders and set immigration standards, it is not justice to require illegal immigrants, especially those who have American families, to do the impossible. The United States clearly has a national interest in deporting violent criminals such as members of MS-13, but what is the interest in deporting law-abiding, peaceful family men like Mr. Jabbi?
Jabbi's case is similar to that of Jorge Garcia, the married father of two from Detroit who was deported to Mexico, a country he had not seen in 30 years, in January. Garcia was brought to the US as a 10-year-old, but was too old to qualify for DACA. Garcia, who was employed as a landscaper, had no criminal record. Garcia had been working toward legal status since 2005 and had spent about $125,000 in the process.
Allowing immigrants like Mr. Jabbi to stay with their families would not require an amnesty or pardon for their immigration sins. It would require immigration reform. Reform bills proposed in the past would require illegals to undergo background checks and pay fines and back taxes as restitution for illegally entering the US.
Deportation is not the only way of making right the wrong of illegal immigration. In the case of people like Buba Jabbi, deportation is not the best course for the immigrant, their family or the United States. If conservatives can forgive President Trump for his numerous indiscretions, it seems appropriate to offer some small measure of grace to immigrants who only want to peacefully support their families in the land of opportunity. Hardworking, family-oriented people are the sort of citizens – or residents – that America should welcome.
Originally published on The Resurgent