The blogosphere is alive with the sound of “back-door amnesty” today, as the Department of Homeland Security prepares to simply release thousands of illegals with pending deportation cases into the US population.
The most basic thing about the whole issue is that doing this would represent a decision – on a colossal scale – not to enforce US federal law.
But the second most basic thing is that there can be no pretense whatsoever that circumstances are dictating this move. Opponents of immigration-law enforcement have regularly argued that we can’t deport all the illegals, because we can’t find them all. This argument is silly – there’s someone in the US who knows where every single illegal is, and there are millions, including law enforcement, who know where illegals gather – but even those who didn’t recognize all along that this argument was a smokescreen must surely do so now. We know exactly where these thousands of illegals are. DHS and ICE are simply proposing not to pursue their cases to actual deportation because – well, because they don’t feel like it.
The Obama administration can’t have it both ways. If they have been successful already in setting a record for deportations in a year – as they have repeatedly claimed – then it’s clear they were able to do that without deciding not to enforce the law in thousands of cases. Quite obviously, moreover, excusing thousands from deportation is not going to increase deportations. They’re playing bait-and-switch with their appeals to the public here.
The new DHS argument, that if they ignore the non-violent illegals they’ll be able to focus better on illegals with criminal records, rings hollow. People care about far more than just the criminal records of some illegals. What so many Americans are concerned about is precisely what would be trampled by this latest DHS move: the rule of law.
There are some people who are worried about the ethnic transformation of America, but that’s a niche concern, and not descriptive of the average opponent of illegal immigration. What the great majority of people deplore is the erosion of integrity in our public life that is inherent with failure to enforce our laws. No demographic is immune to this erosion, neither those who exploit it nor those who suffer from it. Everyone faces arbitrary and unfair situations; everyone develops cynicism in one way or another. The loss of respect for civil government – indeed, for the civil compact itself – eats away at every aspect of life.
We are already living with the consequences of fudging the rule of law when it comes to immigration. An obvious example is the ease with which the 9/11 attackers overstayed visas and evaded FBI and INS interest while they used American resources and scoped out their plan on American soil. But as the photos in this post indicate, there are other ways in which we live with the consequences. These photos were taken by former Minutemen south of Tucson in 2007. It’s remarkable to reflect on the fact that there are people in California’s Bay Area who will fight to the death to get plastic bags banned from California grocery stores, but don’t even acknowledge the unauthorized, unpoliced landfills created along the illegal immigration routes from Mexico.
Trash, of course, is not all that the Americans on our southern border have to live with. At least one national park has become unsafe, with hiking paths in it being closed to the public because of illegal migrant activity. The murder of rancher Robert Krentz near the Arizona border earlier this year highlights another problem – and one that can’t be addressed by processing deportation cases at a slightly less stately pace. Krentz wasn’t killed because the known criminal illegals hadn’t been efficiently deported, he was killed because anyone can get over the border illegally. Deportation is only one of multiple measures needed to restore reliability and regularity to the rule of law. An indispensable element of the effort must be actually securing the border. This doesn’t mean making a show of jawing about it. It means literally preventing illegals from getting across the border.
Americans are also living with the huge and growing consequences of illegals “blending in” and signing up for benefits. In 2004, this problem was determined to be costing California about $10.5 billion a year. That figure is unlikely to have declined, even though the number of illegals in the state has declined each of the last three years. The increase in state entitlements per beneficiary since 2004 (in particular, health care and health services benefits) would easily outpace the reduction in the illegal population.
Californians tried to avoid shouldering this burden by passing Prop. 187 with a supermajority in 1994. A federal judge overturned it. As many readers are aware, government entities in Mexico have actually distributed how-to guides to their people describing the way to get signed up for benefits north of the border. There can be no misunderstanding why 64% of Californians in a July 2009 poll said illegal immigrants are a major strain on the state budget. Virginians discovered from a study released in 2009 that illegals were costing them $1.7 billion – which looks like small potatoes next to California’s burden, except that Virginia has no border contiguous with a major source of illegal migrants.
Living in southern California, I’m surrounded by people of Latino heritage who range from fifth- and sixth-generation Americans to first-generation legal immigrants. They’re great people. Many of them deplore illegal immigration too, for precisely the reason that letting it continue makes a mockery of the rule of law. The Obama DHS’s new gambit has only the thinnest veil of practical purpose laid over it; in fact, it will do nothing to achieve what Americans really want, which is to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Heritage and others are exactly correct: releasing the “non-criminals” is nothing more or less than back-door amnesty. It won’t do anything about illegal immigration or border security. It will further undermine the rule of law in America.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.