Really Getting Immigration Right

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on February 4, 2013
Columnist Charles Krauthammer

, a physician by training, gets the diagnosis right on the problem of the "compromise" Senate amnesty outline hatched in a back room.

Krauthammer points out how this "comprehensive" framework for mass amnesty, despite all the spin employed to try to sell it, really takes the same shape as the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

He writes that the 1986 amnesty got immigration wrong. "Amnesty came. Enforcement never did. Reagan was swindled."

The issue could and should be addressed differently.

"There is an obvious solution: enforcement first. … [The Senate outline] is said to feature border enforcement first, then legalization. Not quite."

Krauthammer witheringly pokes holes in the bogus commission idea, the ridiculous border enforcement measures (now to feature radar and drones), and the cleverly named "probationary" status, which begins when the bill becomes law. This supposedly conditional legalization is "the functional equivalent of a green card".

Of the probationary legal status: "It grants the right to live and work here openly. Once granted, it will never be revoked."

"'Probationary' in this context means, in reality, 'forever'. (Unless, of course, you commit some crime.) It means they can stay and work here freely for the rest of their lives."

That practical effect of what Krauthammer accurately points out is permanent, immediate legalization fits the definition Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has come up with for amnesty. Rep. King says amnesty is "to pardon immigration lawbreakers and reward them with the objective of their crime." Bingo! That's what McCain, Durbin, and the rest have come up with.

Unfortunately, Krauthammer falls short with his solution. He's willing to legalize all 11 million foreign lawbreakers in exchange for an actual triple fence like the one that actually stopped the inflow of illegals in San Diego.

Not an equal trade.

"The point [of a full-fledged border fence] is not to punish anyone or to make things harder but to ensure we don't have to do this again — agonizing over the next 11 million cruelly living here in the shadows", Krauthammer writes.

Sorry, doctor, even an actual border fence won't spare us a continued influx of millions more illegal aliens. That's because Obama has fettered real enforcement and the 1990 Immigration Act mushroomed immigration levels and tilted our immigration priorities way out of whack.

I agree that enforcement should come first, before we take up the matter of what to do with the illegal alien population. I agree that a substantial border fence is part of the solution. But a fence is only a small part of the solution.

Want to get this issue right this time? Here's the first stage. It will take several years.

Restore and expand the 287(g) program so state and local police can serve as eyes and ears in fighting immigrant criminals, particularly gangs and smuggling rings. Dramatically expand use of mandatory detention, expedited exclusion, and other aspects of interior enforcement. As a show of seriousness and good will, the administration should first have to drop its offensive, mean-spirited lawsuits against states like Alabama and South Carolina. Revoke the Morton "prosecutorial discretion" memo and other policies that require federal immigration agents to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Other necessary components of a sufficient solution include mandatory E-Verify screening by every U.S. employer, as Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-Iowa) new bill would implement. Reinstate vigorous no-match letters to both employers and rightful holders of Social Security numbers. And march some of the worst employers in a perp walk, so illegal foreign workers know that their lawbreaking on the supply side is balanced by prosecutions on the demand side.

Go after ID thieves and frauds with full force (many of whom are illegal aliens) as the criminals they truly are for ruining innocent people's lives. Create more meaningful causes of action so victims of illegal alien ID thieves can do something powerful, in case the government's prosecutorial discretion sells out the victims.

These steps would, at last, demagnetize the "jobs magnet".

And far more important than a border fence, chain migration visas should be eliminated. Reduce legal immigration concomitantly. There's no reason we should continue mass immigration at a million a year. And doing away with visas for an original immigrant's aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, elderly parents, and grown children who have their own lives represents the easiest route to cutting legal immigration.

The same goes for eliminating the visa lottery. Kill the lottery, reduce legal immigration by those visas, and end new migration chains of people selected purely by chance in a fraud-ridden, national security-risk program.

We should change legal immigration preferences so employment-based permanent visas come before family reunification. And accompanying relatives should count on the family side of the visa ledger, not the employment side.

Every prospective immigrant should be selected on a point system, where they have to prove educational accomplishment (with nothing less than a high school diploma accepted for anyone other than a spouse or minor child of a U.S. citizen), English proficiency, and demonstrable work experience and skills. We need a hard cap on total visas. Restore public charge doctrine and beef up welfare reform's personal responsibility requirements so immigrants come here expected to contribute, not adding to our fiscal hurdles.

Rather than mass immigration without regard to what an individual has to offer, we should move to much less immigration, but much smarter immigrant selection.

And all this must be instituted and have been in use so all the kinks are worked out for several years before we take up the question of how to handle the remaining illegal population.

The beauty of this incremental approach is that, with much greater probability of being caught and held accountable for some crime often associated with illegal immigration like document or ID fraud, and pulling the power cord on the jobs magnet, the illegal population is very likely to fall on its own over the several years these policies are being stood up and sustained. In four or five years, we'll know the actual size of the illegal population that's most strongly integrated in this country. It's far less than 11 million, in all certainty.

This approach truly represents enforcement first. It's more substantial and fairer to the Americans most harmed by large-scale, chronic illegal immigration. And there's no logical reason that we have to try to solve this problem that took decades to get to where it is in any kind of short time frame.

Want enforcement first? Want to avoid repeated amnesties down the road? This is how we get there. This is how we could "get immigration right."