It might be useful to step back a minute and think about the various illegal alien subpopulations and consider how we allocate our limited enforcement resources regarding their control. All should be escorted out of the country, of course, but some do us more harm than others.
The table below lists nine such subpopulations (which may overlap), from the obvious class of criminal illegal aliens to a perhaps fanciful category, the illegal alien nuns, and shows how the government allocates money and staff to manage these groups.
A Hierarchy of Illegal Aliens and the Resources Devoted to Their Departure (ranked in order of their negative impact on society)
of Illegal Aliens
|Their Impacts on
the Rest of Us
|Alien smugglers and other criminals
|They commit crimes against society and individuals
|Substantial, note recent pressure on sanctuary cities
|Fraudulent users of the marriage-immigration system, a smaller group than the class above but also one involving criminals
|They commit crimes against individual citizen spouses, and against the immigration system
|None, DHS does virtually nothing regarding illicit use of the VAWA program, but will attack marriage fraud if it involves payments by aliens
|Illegals abusing government subsidy programs
|They use tax moneys in illegal ways; i.e., we pay them to stay
|Minimal, IRS is very lax
|Illegals holding jobs in the cash economy
|They take jobs from residents, lower wages generally, and cheat taxpayers
|Minimal, no difference in enforcement between this class and the one below.
|Illegals holding jobs that pay payroll taxes
|They take jobs from residents and lower wages generally
|Illegal aliens arriving as border-crossers
|They will join, later, one or more of the other classes
|Maximum effort, including the Wall.
|Illegal aliens arriving as visa abusers
|They will join, later, one or more of the other classes
|Minimal, except in the visa issuance process
|Illegals not working and not using subsidy programs, such as pre-school children
|Currently little impact, probably much more later
|Illegal alien nuns and retired illegal alien millionaires
|They — and they are very rare — help society
|None, which, in this case, is appropriate
A quick glance at the table shows that there is often no connection between the harm done by the subpopulations and the amount of resources aimed at controlling them. America, famously, over-allocated resources to the southern border even before the Wall came to be an expensive symbol of those policies. A wall would be nice, but the needed resources would be better spent digging illegal aliens out of the interior and flying them back to their homelands.
While one group of illegals — those at the border — gets a lot of attention, the reverse is true with other subpopulations. For example, those who are misusing our income tax system, a particularly bothersome population, get away with billions because IRS does not want to spend a dime to help control illegal immigration, as we have noted before. Let's reduce the request for 5,000 more agents for the Border Patrol and send 1,500 of them to IRS to see to it that we are not paying illegal aliens, through inappropriate use of tax funds, to stay in the States.
A much simpler allocation of resources could be made along the lines of employers paying cash to their illegal alien workers, as opposed to those paying by check and making withholdings; faced with more tips than they can use, ICE should announce that when all else is roughly equal it will raid employers known to pay in cash to avoid tax payments.
I suspect the imposition of such a policy, with a few examples in each part of the country, would make good reading in the restaurant industry's trade papers, for instance.
Now, it is easier to round up illegals at the border than anywhere else; proof of illegality is not a problem as they are usually caught red-handed, sometime minutes after crossing illegally; no families are broken up when they are arrested; and no employers are inconvenienced, which unfortunately is important politically. This is one of the reasons why resources are aimed at this subpopulation.
In contrast is another group of illegal aliens who are much less attractive than the Mexican teenager simply looking for a better job; these are the people, usually women, who are in the second category in the table. They seek citizen or sometimes green card spouses, con them into phony marriages, and split as soon as they can manipulate the immigration process into giving them a green card.
Sometimes they do this by faking abuse charges at their resident spouses, and the Department of Homeland Security, admittedly working with some lopsided language in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), does next to nothing to prevent this form of fraudulent immigration and this harm against the allegedly abusive spouses. We at CIS get a steady flow of letters telling the husband's side of these stories and reporting in detail how the government does not want to inconvenience itself by hearing the citizen's side of the story. We did a report on this kind of marriage fraud last year.
These cases are hard to prove; it is by definition a "she said, he said" situation, and instead of trying — as divorce courts do — to solve the problem, DHS just gives up and grants a green card to the alien. If something is to be done in this arena, more resources will be needed.
These resources need not just be people and money, they can be ideas and political will. We have argued, for example, that the K-1 visa, for fiancées, is a needless convenience for those seeking marriage fraud green cards, and that the elimination of the visa category would help prevent some of these cases. If two people love each other and want to get married, they can do so in the alien's home country or, if they would rather get married in the States, the alien can come in on a visitor's visa. Only if the visitor's visa is denied and if the citizen will not marry in the alien's nation does the K-1 visa come into play. But terminating that visa would take political will, which seems to be missing.
Our last category, the truly good illegals, may be a pipe dream. But I suspect somewhere among the 12 million or so of them there must be a nun or two without papers, doing good while an illegal; similarly there must be a handful of retired, rich illegals (who did not get that way from the drug trade) who are living in America and spending their money here.
We are — and this is the right policy — using zero resources to find those rare people.