Of Course I'll Respect Your Immigration Laws in the Morning

By Mark Krikorian on October 15, 2013

The core obstacle to amnesty is trust. Yes, it would reward lawbreakers. It would be extremely costly. It would create millions of additional Democrat voters. But the stupefying sums of corporate money pushing the Schumer-Rubio amnesty could drown out these concerns if not for one thing: No one, not anyone anywhere, believes a new set of immigration laws would be enforced any more zealously than the old set, meaning we'd just end up with a new illegal-alien population a few years hence that Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and Reince Priebus would tell us had to be amnestied.

The reason we know this is how it would work out is that the pro-amnesty groups are telegraphing, in capital letters, that they oppose immigration enforcement, as such. A notable recent example was on yesterday's Washington Post front page: "Controversial quota drives immigration detention boom". It follows a long Bloomberg piece of a couple weeks ago, both placed by activists opposed to detention of illegal aliens.

I'm not going to fisk the piece, but suffice it to say that detention is the sine qua non of immigration enforcement — if you're opposed to detention of illegal and criminal aliens pending proceedings and deportation, then you're opposed to immigration law, period.

Two points the article, and the activists who generated it, make are incorrect. First, the reference to a "quota" of detentions is stretching the meaning of words. Congress has appropriated a sum of money for detention of illegal and criminal aliens pending deportation and insists, rightly, that the executive spend it as instructed. If that's a "quota" then so is almost everything else in the federal budget. And the implication is that it's too much, in any case — that the tea-party Rethuglicans are mandating detentions as a way of paying off private prison companies.

In fact, only 1.7 percent of ICE's caseload is in detention this year, even with the nefarious "quota" imposed by Congress on the long-suffering public servants running DHS. And it is because such a tiny share of arrested illegals are detained that so many of them abscond. As of July, ICE reported that there were more than 850,000 people who have been ordered deported who are still here; of those, only about 13,000 were in detention (either appealing their deportation or awaiting travel documents from their home countries). The other 800,000-plus are on the lam — precisely because they were not detained.

The article also repeats the tired claim that a large share of deportees are not criminals. First of all, every illegal alien is deportable at any time, whether or not he's raped and murdered anyone. Holding that immigration law should only be enforced against illegal aliens who have violated some other, "real," law is tantamount to saying the IRS should only pursue money-launderers and terrorists instead of ordinary people who simply refuse to pay their taxes.

But even granting that only criminals should be deported, the vast majority of detainees are criminals (or prior deportees, the very fact of whose return makes them felons). As the Post story itself acknowledged, "More than two-thirds of the immigrants in ICE custody on Sept. 7, for instance, were 'mandatory cases,' including drug offenders, violent offenders and anyone involved in prostitution-related crimes, among other violations that trigger automatic detention." So we should let illegal-alien pimps and pushers loose because we trust them to show up for their immigration hearings? What's more, immigration enforcement actions are actually declining, despite the fact that, because of the new Secure Communities system, ICE is now alerted to far more criminal and illegal aliens than ever before.

This one article isn't the only reason to conclude the pro-amnesty groups' oppose immigration enforcement per se. A pro-amnesty coalition opposes the enforcement-tightening SAFE Act (outlined here) even after an amnesty. The Schumer-Rubio bill never requires — in fact, prohibits — employers to check the legal status of their existing workforce, even after the amnesty, so as not to expose illegals who didn't qualify for legalization. And just yesterday "activists who are demanding the Obama administration halt all deportations" chained themselves in front of an immigration detention center in Arizona, "hoping to stop anyone from being deported."

"Open borders" isn't an epithet for the Schumer-Rubio-Chamber of Commerce-ACLU crowd. It's a factual description.