|Take just the recent stories of the past three weeks: Of the six alleged terrorists who were plotting to attack US Soldiers at Fort Dix last month, three of them were illegal aliens who lived in the United States for years. The tuberculosis patient who has traveled internationally, exposing untold numbers of people to a particularly difficult strain of the disease and is now under quarantine, entered the United States even though US Customs and Border Patrol was instructed to bar him from entry.|
And with these stories, we are poised to pass an immigration bill that would flood the already-broken immigration, border, and legal system with a minimum of 12 million illegal aliens—granting them legal status. Is it not clear that the newly formed US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office of the Department of Homeland Security is already broken, unable to carry out its fundamental and basic functions? And if it is clear, is it not folly to further overwhelm that office thinking it will keep America safe and protect us from further internal lapses and chasms in our ability to track illegal entrants into our country who can do us great harm?
Speaking about the current legislation this past weekend on Fox News Sunday, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had it right:
[The] bill explicitly grandfathers in somewhere between 10 million and 20 million people. We don't know the number because the government has no idea how many there are—again, an example of incompetence. The government doesn't know within a million how many people will be grandfathered in.
They're all, in effect, made permanent temporary workers the day the bill is signed. They have to go through one day of filling out a form. There is zero possibility the federal government will be able to process those forms.…
It would have grandfathered the three terrorists in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, we are told that nobody will be given legal status—not one person, not twelve million persons, not twenty million persons—from their current illegal status without a series of security triggers that include background checks and further border enforcement measures. But Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation and Kris Kobach University of Missouri-Kansas City have already analyzed that supposed provision and found it simply untrue:
Section 1(a) allows probationary Z visas to be issued immediately after enactment, and Section 601(f)(2) prohibits the federal government from waiting more than 180 days after enactment to begin issuing probationary Z visas.…
Moreover, the "probationary" designation means little. These visas are nearly as good as non-probationary Z visas, giving the alien immediate lawful status, protection from deportation, authorization to work, and the ability to exit and reenter the country (with advance permission).
Perhaps this is why Steve Moore (of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page), one of the strongest advocates for more immigration into this country, debating the current legislation on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America last week, said he would eliminate the Z visa from the current legislation. (Audio of Moore’s debate with Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies is included in the right-hand column.)
Yes, the rhetoric against conservatives is increasingly hotter from the Left and the pro-path-to-citizenship Republicans—we want nothing short of deportation, they tell us. The President has said “if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of [the legislation], you can use it to frighten people.” The Secretary of Homeland Security has said, to many opponents of this legislation, “anything other than capital punishment is an amnesty.” U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has said of opponents of the current legislation, “We’re going to tell the bigots to shut up.”
The truth is, we are not bigots, we do not want capitol punishment, we do not want mass deportation, and we do want what’s best for America—including a better system for more legal immigration. And, believe it or not, we can get somewhere helpful on immigration here in Washington.
So, here’s a better plan—one which has been alluded to by Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review: Do nothing with the 12-20 million illegals here now. That’s right, no Z-Visa, no mass deportation, no path to citizenship, no rounding up—nothing.
The truth is, we have lived with the illegal population for quite some time now. Whence comes the exigency to do something now?
What we can and should do is encourage their attrition, piecemeal.
Few are against securing the border (or so they say). So secure it. Build the full fence and show some seriousness about protecting our country. In the meantime, we need to stop the silly sound-bite that if you build a ten-foot fence the illegal immigrants will find an eleven-foot ladder. With enough border patrol, the ladders become irrelevant.
But, we can and should deport illegal persons piecemeal and over time as they, themselves, come out of the shadows—as of course they will whenever they have cause to show an i.d. to a government agency or employer; or if they show a fake ID; or if they are arrested for other crimes; or if they are merely pulled over for traffic violations.
At those points, let us show our ability to handle the law as it is now, which allows for the deportation of illegal aliens.
Earlier this year, Michelle Malkin pointed out that we have doubt enough with our task as it is, never mind absorbing 12 million (minimum) more illegal citizens and requiring their legal mainstreaming and processing. Among other things, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “has lost track of 111,000 files in 14 of the agency's busiest district offices and processed as many as 30,000 citizenship applications last year without the required files.”
We are being asked in the pending Senate legislation to adopt a whole series and set of laws, regulations, and procedures that depend on our—or the government’s—ability to actually effectuate those requirements that few have confidence we can effectuate rightly. How can we think of reforming something called Section 101(a)(15)(H)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to solve our problems with absorbing a minimum of 12 million illegal aliens when we have yet to solidify the southern border? That’s what irks about the long, Rube Goldbergian machinations of the proposed law. We cannot even make the current law work.
Let’s try the law as it is now, first—and prove our ability.
Let’s put illegal immigration on the course of ultimate extinction by tolerating no more furtherance, or rewarding, of it—but without taking any drastic measures either.
So, yes, don’t just do something, stand there. It’d prove a lot.
About the Author
Seth Leibsohn is a fellow of the Claremont Institute and the Producer of Bill Bennett's Morning in America. A previous version of this op-ed ran on National Review Online last month.
Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page debates Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies on Bill Bennett's Morning in America on June 1.
Moore / Krikorian Debate Part 1
Moore / Krikorian Debate Part 2
The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration
In their newly released book, The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration, Claremont Institute senior fellows Edward J. Erler, John Marini, and Thomas G. West seek to revive the issue of republican character in the current immigration debate, and to elucidate the constitutional foundations of American citizenship.