The problem with this instant solution is that Chechnya and Dagestan are not “countries” — or, to be more precise, are not sovereign nations. They’re subnational jurisdictions of the Russian Federation, whose citizens travel on Russian passports. This would be the equivalent of permitting United Kingdom immigrants from Wales and Scotland, but not from England and Northern Ireland. Senator McCain’s proposal could in theory work — if you believe that our post-9/11 state-of-the-art “smart government” will have no trouble distinguishing between a guy from St. Petersburg, and a fellow from Makhachkala, formerly Petrovsk, the Dagestani capital once named after the same tsar as Petersburg. But, if you’re a wee bit skeptical that U.S. immigration officials are capable of distinguishing a Russian from one city named after Peter the Great from a Russian from another city named after Peter the Great, it’s a bit of a long shot — and that’s before the Dagestani from Petrovsk takes the precaution of getting a post-office box in St. Petersburg.
So McCain’s intervention is useful only insofar as it reminds us of the gulf between political “solutions” and reality. When I came to this great land, I was initially worried that the government might find out about my unpaid parking tickets in Moose Jaw and the chain of unsolved prostitute murders in the port of Hamburg. My immigration lawyer explained to me that the examiners devote six minutes to each application, and then say yea or nay. I’m confident that if we toss another 33 million into the mix, we can get that six minutes cut by two-thirds. Much of which can be devoted to checking the background of Dagestani applicants, assuming the immigration official takes no more than three attempts to type “Makhachkala” correctly.
And so it will go with all the other much-vaunted “triggers”: Chances of them ever having any meaningful impact? Zero percent. The Daily Caller has already identified in the bill 999 references to “waivers, exemptions, or political discretion,” meaning that all these “triggers” will be in the hands of a federal bureaucracy that will never pull them, and will take its cue from the left-wing immigration-lobby groups the new bill funds so generously. So what’s the big deal about making McCain’s Dagestani crackdown the 1,000th meaningless safeguard that will be entirely ignored?
Beneath the phony “triggers,” an already rapid transformation of America is about to be speeded up. An informed citizenry would trade all the triggers for a straight answer to one simple question:
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn