President Trump praised federal immigration officers, whom he called “heroes,” at a White House event on Monday. The president told an audience of 150 officers and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “You are the patriots, and you are the heroes, you are the fighters, and you are the warriors for justice. You are great people. You keep us safe, you keep us free, and you make us very, very proud.” President Trump vowed to “secure our border once and for all.” He denounced the “coalition of open borders extremists” for their “shameful attacks on our great law enforcement” and their “campaign to abolish ICE.”
Immigration enforcement agencies are ridding the country of criminal illegal aliens every day and keeping more would-be migrants from entering the country illegally. Early Tuesday morning, they did something else. ICE delivered long-awaited justice for the victims of the Holocaust by removing a war criminal from United States soil who appears to have been the last surviving Nazi war crimes suspect living in the United States.
The White House announced that ICE had implemented a 2004 order of deportation of Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi SS labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland who became a postwar resident of Queens, New York. He was flown out of the United States to Germany, which agreed after much discussion to accept him. Palij, now 95, had served in 1943 as an armed guard at the Trawniki slave labor camp in German-occupied Poland, preventing the escape of Jewish prisoners during his Nazi service. During that same year, approximately 6,000 Jewish children, women, and men who were incarcerated at the Trawniki slave labor camp were shot to death in one horrific massacre.
While previous administrations had dragged their feet in ridding the country of this former Nazi war criminal, the Trump administration prioritized the removal of Palij, who had remained in the United States for decades under false pretenses. He arrived in the United States in 1949 and became a U.S. citizen in 1957, after concealing from immigration authorities his Nazi past. Finally, ten years after having been tracked down by investigators, a federal judge revoked Palij’s United States citizenship in August 2003. He was ordered deported to Ukraine in 2004, but never got there. His administrative appeal was denied in 2005. Palij refused to take any responsibility for his actions, claiming he was forced by the Nazis to serve as a guard and was never a collaborator. Palij was not accused of actually taking part in the killing of Jews but he was considered “an essential component in the machinery of annihilation” at the camp where he worked as a guard, according to Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of a special investigation unit for the Justice Department at the time Palij was stripped of his citizenship.
”Let them come and get me,“ Palij said defiantly when he was interviewed in 2003. “I’m not running. What will they do? Shoot me? Put me in the electric chair? Where are they going to deport me to? What country is going to take an 80-year-old man in poor health?” For thirteen more years after Palij lost his administrative appeal, this former Nazi war criminal continued to live the good life in the United States, sharing a two-story house with his wife on a tree-lined street in Queens and cashing his social security checks.
The Bush and Obama administrations got nowhere in trying to convince Germany, Poland and other countries to take Palij. Germany had resisted taking responsibility for Palij since he was never a German citizen and was born in an area that had formerly been a part of Poland (now a part of Ukraine). It looked like Palij was going to live out the rest of his life in the United States until the Trump administration intervened. President Trump had personally raised the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It then took personal diplomacy by the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to seal the deal.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has been critical of President Trump in the past. However, that did not stop him from finally agreeing to the Trump administration’s request to accept Palij into Germany. “We accept the moral obligation of Germany, in whose name terrible injustice was committed under the Nazis,” Mr. Maas told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday “We are taking responsibility vis-à-vis the victims of National Socialism and our international partners — even if that demands of us what are at times politically difficult considerations.”
Ironically, ICE implemented the deportation order to remove the ex-Nazi Palij from his residence located in the very same congressional district that the democratic-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wants to abolish ICE, is running to represent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez fundraised with a group, Occupy ICE LA, that referred to ICE as “the Gestapo.” To protest ICE, she called for a full press occupation strategy, even declaring “We need to occupy every airport.” Jakiw Palij, an agent of the Nazis whose real Gestapo played a key role in the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, would have been happy if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s airport occupation strategy had succeeded. Then his plane to Dusseldorf, Germany might not have been able to take off and he could have been back living, at least temporarily, in the district that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who hates ICE detention camps, wants to serve.