Should the United States get Tough on Illegal Workers? Yes

By Mark Krikorian on December 26, 2004

The New York Daily News, December 26, 2004

Sometimes it seems that the only people who are expected to comply with the immigration law are nominees for cabinet posts.

Unfair as that may seem, Bernard Kerik's illegal-alien nanny at least forces us to confront the absurdity at the center of our immigration policy. On the one hand, we have laws that appear tough, banning the employment of illegal aliens, for instance. This is done to satisfy public concerns over uncontrolled borders and mass immigration.

The absurdity lies in the fact that these laws are almost never enforced. In 2002, only 13 employers were fined for hiring illegals.

Had he not invited scrutiny by seeking high office, Kerik could have gone to his grave without anyone knowing he had hired an illegal alien.

There are two ways of fixing this. The politically correct approach is to give amnesty to illegal aliens, increase immigration further and loosen the borders even more. This has the virtue of being more honest.

Unfortunately, it also would be a disaster, saddling the middle class with new taxes, undermining assimilation and making it easier for terrorists to enter our country. It wouldn't even reduce illegal immigration, since foreigners who didn't qualify under new rules would understand that they could get amnesty if they stuck around.

The other approach is to start enforcing the law, not just against the occasional presidential nominee, but across the board. This is an attainable goal - immigration is not an uncontrollable force of nature, driven mainly by the economy, but rather is sparked and nurtured by government policies.

Nor would a new approach to enforcement require land mines and machine guns.

A humane but uncompromising effort would welcome legal newcomers but do everything possible to prevent illegals from entering the country and prevent those who got through from living a normal life here.

Such a policy would cause the illegal population to start declining through attrition, eventually reducing the problem to a manageable nuisance rather than today's crisis.

And at that point, maybe we could stop asking White House staff about their nannies and focus on more pressing issues, like their mistresses.

Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.