Advocates for More Immigration Outline New Strategies

By David North on March 14, 2011

The ever-creative, nicely-funded advocates of more migration have announced a new set of strategies for federal action.

In a nutshell: if congressionally-enacted "comprehensive immigration reform" is off the table for two years, their emphasis will be on narrow administration actions that can be implemented without congressional approval. Each of the actions will be focused on the rights of some groups of aliens – not numbers – and all of them in totality will encourage more migration directly or indirectly, though that is not mentioned.

The principal thrust is to give finite groups of illegal aliens legal rights that they do not now have, convert them to legal status, or at least make them more comfortable while waiting for that status. Other parts of the six-part plan play a supporting role in making migration, and the government's current migrant-related activities, appear in a good light.

Currently there are a number of awkward elements in the immigration process that individually may not be attractive, but collectively tend to discourage migration. The more-migration advocates do not describe it that way, but as we will show below, these clumsy bits of the status quo are useful to the restrictionist cause, and it is probably in our interest that they are preserved as they stand.

Gathering Monday in a pleasant conference room on upper 16th Street in Washington, and sponsored by the smoothly-running Migration Policy Institute (MPI), that organization introduced its latest carefully-footnoted, slickly-presented report entitled "Executive Action on Immigration: Six Ways to Make the System Work Better". It was written by three MPI people: Donald Kerwin, Margie McHugh, and Doris Meissner, the Clinton administration's INS Commissioner.

The three of them summarized their findings, then there were comments by two friendly non-MPI people and a question period.

The four proposed substantive changes in migration-control policies were these:

  1. Let's make it easier for illegals currently in the U.S. who have approved family relative petitions but no visa numbers to handle the application process.

  2. Let's use more "prosecutorial discretion" in proceedings before immigration judges; i.e., let's get ICE to allow more illegals to stay in the U.S. legally without bothering the judges.

  3. Let's "alleviate the burdens on the clogged courts"; this, generally, will ease pressures on illegal aliens now in the court system.

  4. Let's find ways to get more lawyers to represent illegal aliens facing a judicial ruling of deportation, now called "removal".

The first of MPI's points of those listed above reflects one the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, as laid out by Congress. A few years ago Congress ruled that if an illegal alien in the U.S. had persuaded some legal resident of America to file a labor certification or a family petition for him, and if that document had been accepted by the government, then the alien involved (if illegally in the U.S.) had to return to his (or her) home country to seek the visa that the petition had created.

Since the waiting list for visas (a result of other congressional actions) were long, many aliens in that situation opted to wait (illegally) in the U.S. till the visa became ripe. Further, to get that visa the illegal alien had to secure, at the consulate, a Waiver of Inadmissability (a term implying a double-negative, but that's another issue) and it was an open question as to whether that waiver would be granted. Given these complications, a lot of currently-present illegals do not leave the country, preferring instead to face the very low risk of interior apprehension under the current lax enforcement policies.

To fix that dilemma, MPI proposes that the waiver be adjudicated before the alien leaves the country to seek the visa. I suppose that proposal makes some sense if the only thing you worry about is the convenience of illegal aliens. But why make life easier for those illegal aliens in that situation? Won't they just tell their countrymen, in turn, how easy it is to game the American immigration system? Yes, they will.

Meanwhile, of these four proposals, the most obnoxious to me is the one involving "prosecutorial discretion", which is simply another word for an ad hoc administrative legalization program that would allow a subset of those involved in removal proceeding get legal status.

An irony not mentioned at the meeting was that of the illegal alien population in America, those involved in removal proceedings are probably an unattractive and/or unlucky subset. If an illegal stays out of trouble and does not call himself to the attention of the government, and does not seek to cross a border, he is unlikely to be called into the immigration courts. That illegal would never have a chance to have "prosecutorial discretion" used on him, but his brother, who drove under the influence, and was caught doing it, would have that chance.

I am not totally comfortable with the fact that many illegal aliens have no lawyers to help them in immigration courts; it is one of those awkward parts of our current immigration system. But the lack of an attorney in some of these civil proceedings probably does lead to more removals.

In addition to these four, another of the six MPI proposals was a bland suggestion that the White House create an Office on Immigrant Integration. A final, perhaps sneaky, proposal called for a "definition of what constitutes effective border control." That process would probably use (genuine) declining apprehension statistics, and (genuine) climbing budget allocations to define away the remaining and acute problems at the borders. Such a definition would probably avoid facing the fact that where stout fences are built (e.g., in California) there's a lot less illegal traffic than in other areas (e.g., Arizona) where such fences are more rare.

A further problem with the MPI effort to secure a different view of border control is that it would take attention away from a very real problem – the total lack of an effective enforcement policy at work sites. We need one that penalizes and embarrasses the employers, and removes the illegal workers, all at the same time.

That's where some serious attention is needed.