Raul Reyes: Chris Christie suggested immigrants should be tracked like FedEx packages; it's absurd,impossible and inhumane
He says Christie seems to be taking page from Trump's outrageous soundbites; the idea has terrible echoes from history
He says this is not how one fixes America's broken immigration system
Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Relax, it’s FedEx. That’s a slogan associated with one of the world’s largest express transportation companies. It is also the latest policy proposal put forth by 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie.
“You go on online and at any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is,” the New Jersey governor said on Saturday. “Yet we let people come into this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them.”
Christie said that he wants FedEx founder Fred Smith to come and work for the government to show U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) how to set up a system for tracking people.
Christie’s idea would be laughable were he not serious.
The idea of tracking people like packages would likely be both impossible and inhumane. Moreover, it would do nothing toward solving the problem of what to do with the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here.
What’s sad here is that Christie seems to be succumbing to the Trump effect: Say anything, no matter how impractical, just to garner maximum media attention. We’ve seen Jeb Bush go down this path (to disastrous effect) with his use of the offensive term “anchor babies,” and Scott Walker made a similar misstep, with his unusual claim that we need a border wall with Canada.
The jumping off point for Christie’s bizarre proposal seems to be the fact that roughly 40% of undocumented immigrants do not sneak across the border. They enter the country legally and then simply overstay their visas. Although he did not offer details, implementing Christie’s idea would presumably involve some sort of device by which the government could monitor the movements of all those who enter legally on visas. Possible solutions might encompass ankle bracelets or perhaps a FedEx-like label?
Just imagine the response from foreign governments if we told them that visitors to this country were to be tagged or fitted with an electronic device.
Not only would this generate international outrage, our tourism industry would suffer. And there would be little to stop foreign countries from slapping retaliatory restrictions on Americans overseas. Monitoring the exact whereabouts of visitors would be a violation of the due process and privacy rights of millions.
Tracking people who have not committed any crime would be a violation of civil liberties and human rights. It might also be unconstitutional; in March the Supreme Court ordered a review of North Carolina’s policy of making sex offenders wear a GPS monitoring device.
The last time the U.S. government singled out a large group of people was during World War II, when approximately 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps – an episode that is still one of the most shameful in our history.
On Fox News Sunday, Christie said, “I don’t mean people are packages, so let’s not be ridiculous.” But he went on to call for technology “from the folks at FedEx” to figure out a way to monitor people. If he is suggesting that we use methods more sophisticated than tags, labels or ankle bracelets, then his idea becomes truly Orwellian.
Besides, FedEx – while setting a high bar for accuracy and timeliness – is not cheap. Christie did not mention any means of paying for the new tracking technology he has in mind. Nor did he offer a solution for dealing with the remaining 60% of our undocumented population.
His “FedEx plan” is especially troubling coming from a governor of a diverse state who, at times, has supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Christie once had the foresight to sign a bill allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students in New Jersey. Now he’s doubling down on the callous soundbites and moving away from nuanced discussions of immigration policy.
FedEx is not going to fix our immigration system. Christie’s tracking plan is disturbing rhetoric, not a legitimate policy proposal.