ONLY IN THE CONGRESS would as daft a piece of legislation as S.770 be called immigration reform.
This is not to say that our current immigration system isn’t in dire need of reform. Anyone who knows anyone who has tried to legally enter the country is well aware that our current system tends to be discriminatory and slow. It is full of arbitrary limits with neither rhyme nor reason. Capricious rulings from faceless bureaucrats rule the day.
Unrelated to the immigration system is the issue of border security. Everyone seems to recognize that our borders are as porous as cheesecloth. The Mexican border, in particular, has become a dangerous and unruly place. Mexican drug cartels have more control over the expanse of desert than our government, with numerous deaths to both US and Mexican citizens resulting from the insecurity. In the meantime, millions of Mexican citizens routinely cross over to the US without permission. Some return. Most do not.
These are not new problems. In 1986, we had our first go-round with “comprehensive immigration reform.” We granted immunity from prosecution or deportation to some 3 million illegal immigrants and we changed the criteria for obtaining visas, green cards and eventual citizenship for future immigrants. Included in the “comprehensive” solution was supposedly upgraded border security. I supported that effort, partly because I couldn’t see anyway to round up and deport 3 million people, partly because the border would be secured and partly because the path to legal immigration was made simpler for future immigrants. I felt it better to have those illegals legalized and paying taxes than using government services from governments they had no real stake in.
Yet, here we are some 27 years later and the same problems that existed before the 1986 legislation not only still exist, but are worse than before. We now have somewhere around 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US, the border is hardly secure, and the path for legal immigration is more cumbersome and frustrating than ever. The legislative response this time? A repeat of the 1986 legislative failure. For the life of me, I can’t see how anyone with more than three working brain cells can think this is appropriate.
And since the colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, I can’t see how anyone could look at the current legislation and not come away convinced that our Senators are insane.
As I mentioned at the top, I still believe our immigration system is in need of a serious overhaul. Not just a reform of the current immigration laws, but an all-out overhaul. If the Congress wants to strip down the current system and start from scratch, I’m fine with that. Heck, I would be really, really happy if they did that.
We also need border security. It should be a top priority and it shouldn’t be something that takes Congressional action to accomplish. After all, the Executive branch is responsible for maintaining border security. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (a man quickly approaching Sen. John McCain for the “Most Senile Senator” award) told Chris Wallace that the border is “virtually militarized.” Well, that approach obviously isn’t working. I’m certain if the administration actually did militarize the border, there would be howls from the left. But I’m also certain that an infantry division patrolling the Rio Grande and another patrolling the Desert Southwest would be far more effective in maintaining border security than anything else we’ve tried thus far.
And we need to decide what to do with the 11 million people here without visas. I don’t think we’re any more capable of rounding up 11 million criminals today than we were capable of rounding up 3 million criminals 27 years ago. I don’t think they should be allowed to stay, either. I do think there is a very simple and cost effective way to have them return to their country of origin, though: deny them the means to live here. Make it impossible for them to work. Deny them the ability to rent a house or apartment. Deny them government services of any type. Give local governments the ability to turn over those here illegally to federal officials, and make it mandatory that anyone here illegally be immediately sent back home. Not all will “self-deport,” but more than the vast majority will. Human nature is human nature – once deprived of the means to support themselves or their families, they’ll move on to greener pastures.
What is certain that a repeat of the 1986 “comprehensive reform” package will get us, well, a repeat of 1986. Which means in 2040 another bunch of Senators will be discussing what to do about the fact there are more Mexican citizens residing in the US than than in Mexico, why the borders have become deadlier than ever and why the US cannot find (and keep) highly qualified people to emigrate here.
On Friday, President Obama shocked most of the country with his latest Executive Order. You know, the one that lit up the blogoshpere – his unilateral decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who are attending school or served in the military. I figured as long as everyone else was chiming in on the topic, I might as well, too.
Let me begin by admitting that my thoughts on the illegal immigration issue run counter to most people on my side of the political fence. I think it is impractical and probably impossible to deport every single person who migrated to the US outside of the approved immigration policy. Did they break a book full of laws by settling here in that fashion? Sure, and for that I cannot see how any form of reward is proper. I certainly think that anyone who emigrated to the US (legally or otherwise) who engages in unlawful activity should be deported. I’m all for strengthening our border security, up to and including deploying the Army and Air Force with orders to shoot first.
What we do with those who are already here, though, is a much trickier proposition. A big part of the problem is that there really isn’t a way of finding them all: they live mostly in the shadows. There isn’t even reliable data on how many immigrants are here illegally; news reports I’ve read over the past few days use numbers anywhere from 600,000 to 4 million. It’s as much a crap shoot as any statistic you will ever come across. I’ve decided that, essentially, the status quo is probably the best that can be done in their case. Unless they run afoul of the law or ask for social services, we can’t find them. Of course, if they do they should simply be sent packing. But otherwise, I’m content to allow them to stay in their shadow communities.
Often, when thinking in terms of immigration policy and standards, I look at things through my mother and grandmother’s eyes. They arrived here in1959, fresh from the Soviet bloc. As immigrants, they fully understood the challenges faced by other immigrants, regardless of origin, native tongues or anything else. They were both adamantly against illegal immigration, and understandably so. Even as political refugees, they had to go through a battery of tests and pre-qualifications before being allowed into the country. They thought it eminently unfair that anyone should just walk across the border and set up camp, without any need to prove they were willing to fully assimilate into American culture – or even demonstrate they had the skills to contribute to society.
What did they think about the children of illegal immigrants? They both felt that the Constitution should be amended or clarified to ensure that the children of illegals, even if born in the US, should not be granted citizenship. They and their parents should be returned to their home nations and sent to the back of the line, so to speak, and await their turn.
So, extrapolating (there’s your big word for the day, folks!) from that premise, I cannot abide allowing those children to stay here on any sort of amnesty program. I realize the people the President’s order targets didn’t arrive here of their own accord. I’m even willing to let them return to their home countries with a preference on the waiting list. But if anyone thinks this is the beginning of meaningful immigration reform, they are seriously deluded. After all, even under the executive order those illegals affected won’t be granted residency status – only an act of Congress can do that.
We need to recognize this for what it is: an act of political pandering from the President Who Perfected Pandering. The EO signed on Friday only remains in effect until rescinded, either by a new President in 2013 or by the current one when he realizes it costs him more votes than it gains. It wasn’t a grand statement on the mess our immigration policy turned into after Ronald Reagan’s own bit of pandering in 1986 (the Immigration Reform and Control Act). Had Obama actually wanted to enact some type of meaningful reform, he would have combined the EO with a legislative proposal – not a Rose Garden speech asking Congress to do something. You’ll also note that in that speech, the President didn’t outline what he wanted as a result of the reform he demanded, a curious lack of leadership that is in keeping with his style.
What should be of greater concern to all, regardless of where you live, is this fits a pattern of flaunting the Constitution in order to score a cheap political point. In addition to this latest EO, we have other extra-constitutional power grabs that seem derived of partisan political maneuvering. Things like indefinite detention, refusing to support DOMA, international assassinations – the list is growing daily. The President, any President, does not have the prerogative of deciding which laws to enforce. His job is to enforce the law of the land and if he finds one unacceptable, he can request Congress rescind it. This latest EO actually requires a variety of law enforcement agencies, from the FBI and INS to Homeland Security, to willfully ignore the law. Such a situation should never be tolerated by the citizens of our republic.