Government & Politics

Which Immigration Laws Do They Want to Enforce?

DHS secretary says illegals are "here and they're not going anywhere."

Michael Swartz · Jul. 1, 2016

There’s no question illegal immigration is a thorn in the side of those Americans who are interested in fairness and Rule of Law. Many millions are offended at the thought of people circumventing the system while those who go about it the right way are played for suckers by a government that has made the legal process more time-consuming and expensive. And that’s not to mention the cost and other crime involved.

Discussions of building a wall for border security and ending “birthright” citizenship for non-citizens, though, have much less meaning when it’s clear that those currently in charge of law enforcement have little interest in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, particularly the tide that flows across our southern border. (As many as half of illegal immigrants are illegal because they have overstayed their legal permission to be here, but we have at least some idea of who they are since they have paperwork on file — not that anyone is rushing to address this issue, either.)

Yet while we have a president who would rather wield a pen and a phone than wait on Congress to hash out common-sense immigration policy, his approach was given a default rebuke by a split Supreme Court last week, as the justices chose not to overturn a lower court decision which said that Barack Obama’s approach was not a constitutional one.

Picking and choosing which laws to enforce or ignore is of course no way to maintain Rule of Law, but it’s Obama’s preferred style.

Meanwhile, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson defiantly told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, illegal immigrants are “here and they’re not going anywhere.” And as long as the issue remains alive it can be used to score political points, as Mark Alexander wrote in the wake of the 2014 election.

But there’s an argument, proffered by Andrew McCarthy at National Review and seconded by Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, that the most effective way to deal with illegal immigration is simple: “attrition through enforcement.” We have the laws on the books already — after all, they’re not called “illegal aliens” for nothing — so the impediment to success is a lack of willingness to uphold the law. It may create a lot of headaches for certain businesses and the pro-amnesty national Chamber of Commerce, but McCarthy and Krikorian argue that limiting the opportunities for undocumented workers would likely convince them to return home.

Further, McCarthy makes the case that the matter is not one of national security, but law enforcement. “The distinction is important because, while national security threats must be defeated, law enforcement problems are managed,” writes McCarthy. “We don’t expect to wipe them out. We figure out how many offenders there are and what resources we have to address them, and we deploy the resources in a manner that gives us the biggest bang for the buck.”

Yet the most immediate issue for law enforcement is the danger of being overmatched at the border by organized crime, which has exploited our lax border security and enforcement and found a willing market for their illicit activities. Is that “here and not going anywhere,” too?

We can argue whether the damage from amnesty 30 years ago is too great, as two more generations of illegal immigrants have impatiently waited for their own “permiso.” But letting them know that there won’t be a second round of amnesty, that the law is the law, and that it will be enforced appropriately would do as much to solve the problem as any wall would.

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