There’s one thing about our immigration policy that is an absolute necessity for any progress to be made on the issue: securing our southern border against illegal trespass.
And, of course, that’s why President Obama made it clear Tuesday in Las Vegas that his administration has no intention of creating an ironclad way of keeping people from crossing the Mexican border illegally.
Why is it so important? Because no matter what we do about “approved residency permits” providing “legal work opportunities” that will progress to “paths to green card status” that will eventually offer “a track to citizenship” with a side trip for “in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants’ children,” none of it will matter.
As long as anyone now south of the border can cross it at will, even if we extended instant citizenship to each and every one of the 11 million persons now in the country illegally, it would only mean that 10 or a dozen years from now, we will be facing the problem of what to do with the millions of new people who are in the country illegally.
That is to say, while polls show that most Americans want to resolve the problem of illegal immigration without undue harshness (while many others still see a too-easy path to legal residency as rewarding those who broke our laws), no possible resolution can work if it doesn’t actually close the border, instead of leaving the door open to let it all happen again.
As Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said about the program he supported along with three other Republican senators and four Democrats, “I think (not securing the border) would be a terrible mistake. We have a bipartisan group of senators that have agreed to that. For the president to try to move the goalposts on that specific requirement, as an example, does not bode well in terms of what his role’s going to be in this or the outcome.”
According to Fox News, “Rubio, a prominent conservative who is also Hispanic, is vital to the bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill. The senator, though, insisted that illegal immigrants not be allowed to obtain green cards—let alone citizenship—’until the enforcement stuff is in place. If that’s not in the bill, I won’t support it,’ he said.”
Many are doubtful that he and other Republicans can actually hold that line. That’s because history has shown Democrats, no matter what they promise, have little incentive to take effective action, no matter what agreement Rubio and Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake think they have made with their liberal colleagues.
Another thing that must be spelled out in clear and certain terms is what will happen to people who do manage to enter the country illegally after any new law takes effect. If they are not detained and sent back, the whole house of cards will collapse.
Interestingly, news reports were saying that the Senate’s “Group of Eight” released their plan a day before the president announced his because they didn’t want the only plan before the public to have Obama’s name on it, something they apparently considered a kiss of death for any meaningful reform.
The plan (really, a four-page sketchy outline without many details) the senators propose says it would offer:
- A pathway to citizenship, contingent on truly securing the border doing whatever it takes to halt unauthorized crossings;
- Tracking people in the country on visas for study and temporary work to be sure they leave when the visas expire;
- Doing full background checks before granting residency;
- And requiring that those here without legal status pay fines and back taxes to qualify for a “probationary legal status.”
In addition, it would put newly legal immigrants at “the end of the line” for citizenship, behind those who have already applied, and would bar them from federal benefits while in temporary legal status.
To many observers, that sounds too much like “instant amnesty” to be palatable, and Obama’s plan, which he announced Tuesday, varied from the senators’ effort (besides the rejection of border security, which he addressed only by calling for “enhancements”) by seeking to improve the system by which employers verify a worker’s legal status and by creating a “guest worker” permit system to resolve the need for temporary agricultural labor.
One proposal would offer guest workers tax-favored savings programs such as 401(k)s that would only be payable when the workers returned to their own countries.
Skeptics said Obama’s insistence on avoiding the deal-breaking border issue was because, as with so many other issues, his proposal was simply posturing for the Hispanic vote while never intending any sort of solution.
That’s because, in this view, he wants to keep the issue alive for use in the 2014 congressional elections. Finding a workable compromise now would only take it off the table, robbing the Democrats of an issue they think is a winner for them.
Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, wrote on Jan. 29 that the Republicans’ hopes will founder because, “The executive branch is in charge of law enforcement, period. Congress cannot enforce the law and cannot compel the president to do so. And we already know there will be no meaningful immigration enforcement as long as President Obama is running the executive branch.”
McCarthy added, “As usual in Washington’s progressive crusades, we are expected to forget all relevant history — in this instance, not only the sorry history of the 1986 amnesty (in which Washington predictably provided all the legalization goodies but reneged on the enforcement promises) but also the Obama administration’s more recent, more virulent anti-enforcement record,” which even included a suit against the state of Arizona for attempting to enforce federal immigration laws the Obama administration was ignoring.
In addition to illegal immigration, border security should be a concern for two other reasons: A porous border offers an easy way for gang members smuggling drugs or guns to enter the United States, not for benefits or jobs, but to pursue their dark agendas.
And it also allows the entry of terrorists, who come not to profit from illicit activity, but to slaughter Americans for ideological goals.
As long as people can slide across an imaginary line on the ground at will, carrying God knows what with them, no other measures will mean anything at all.
We do need to have a serious discussion on immigration reform, but in order for conservatives to join it, we have to have serious people on the left to discuss it with.
How will we know they are serious? If they agree to closing the border to illegal immigrants—and then do it.
Until that happens, nothing else should be on the table at all.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:email@example.com.