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Another Wrong Approach to Immigration Reform

by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 5/30/07

As this is written, senators are scrambling to cobble together an immigration bill that will contain enough compromises to survive a difficult path through both houses of congress to the desk of President George W. Bush. If it gets that far, Mr. Bush, desperate for some positive accomplishments before his term ends, will almost certainly sign it. Desperate also are members of congress up for reelection because they realize that the voters are fed up with inaction on a serious problem and will hold them accountable at the polls.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The bill, as it is shaping up, faces a tough battle because senators and congressmen, like their constituents, are deeply divided over how to straighten out the immigration mess. They sense that time is running out on chances for an immigration bill because soon the nation will be immersed in a huge presidential election campaign and one of the major issues will be illegal immigration. The crisis is of their making, of course. They had many years to address it but they judged it, like medicare and social security reform, too politically risky to deal with. Now they labor furiously to produce a bill, not because of any newfound appreciation of the problems that uncontrolled illegal immigration has caused, but rather because of the sickening realization that they may actually be blamed by the voters for their inaction.

The resulting bill, if one indeed emerges, will probably be a very bad bill which Mr. Bush will probably sign anyway. But even if it were a very good bill, it would likely do little to solve the problems presented by the 12 million or so illegal aliens already here who have broken the law by sneaking across our borders and working here illegally. It is another case of too little, too late; of locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.

Critics of the proposed bill have been urged to read it carefully before condemning it. Critics who are opposed to any form of perceived amnesty have been urged to redefine their notion of amnesty, stop being against every proposal and support something. Trouble is, a careful reading of the proposed legislation fails to reveal a good reason as to why the federal government should reward those who broke the law by granting them legal status, albeit even temporarily.

These are not trivial laws, by the way. If a nation cannot or will not enforce its laws regarding who has a right to live and work within its sovereign borders, how can it expect its other laws to be respected? Can all of us, legal or otherwise, just pick and choose which laws we will respect?

The compromises being suggested constitute a desperate attempt to address most criticisms. But some principles simply cannot be compromised, like rewarding those who break the law, without risking a rapid decent on a slippery slope. Moreover, we’ve been here before. The Immigration Reform Act of the Reagan years was supposed to solve the problem but made matters immeasurably worse by providing too much amnesty and too little enforcement.

 Supporters of the current proposal to create a path to citizenship may insist that no amnesty is involved this time because of the provision for paying a fine and complying with some other relatively mild provisions but they are kidding themselves if they actually believe it. The bottom line is that lawbreakers will be permitted to come forward and receive immediate probationary status which they can change to permanent lawful status by paying $5000 and having a “head of household” return home briefly in order to have his “Z” visa renewed. Exactly how is this government going to monitor and enforce this process when it doesn’t even know who or where the illegals are or even how many of them are in the country?

There is, of course, another approach to this problem which now is so out of control it is beyond painless solutions. No sensible person really believes that this government can round up 12 million illegal aliens and deport them. The disruption to families and especially to children would be intolerable. With our border still broken, most would probably just reenter illegally anyway. Since this bill will founder over disagreement on what to do with them, I suggest we do nothing differently. Call it a “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy. Continue the current practice of not aggressively seeking them out and allow them to continue to remain “in the shadows”. Unless they break another law, they can stay there. If they do break another law, add being here illegally to that offense and deport them after they serve their sentence.

Advocates for illegal immigrants will decry such a policy as denying them their human rights. But illegal aliens have no legal status in this country. If they object to remaining in the shadows, they can choose to voluntarily repatriate and apply to reenter this country the legal way like everyone else. Meanwhile, the enforcement provision of the proposed bill should be enacted and promptly implemented to keep the problem from getting worse. Only after labor needs can be adequately documented should a guest worker program even be considered and then it should be oriented toward skilled workers, not unskilled workers who would simply add to our existing underclass of such workers.

It is being argued by those pushing for a bill that doing something is better than doing nothing. That isn’t true, if by doing something, things are made worse. When politicians are at odds over how to fix a problem they created, why can’t they first try seeing that existing laws are enforced before making new ones that will be even more difficult to enforce. Oh, I almost forgot; it’s all about votes. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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