Mac the Immigration Debate
Heather Mac Donald offers solutions.


It’s been a long year of immigration-reform debate and little real action (the latter, in some ways, is a good thing). The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald has been among the clearest thinkers and reporters during the debate is now co-author of a new book called The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan than Today’s. She recently took questions from NRO editor Kathryn Lopez about Hillary Clinton, the GOP, and other people with immigration issues.

KATHRYN Lopez: So what is “The Immigration Solution”?

Heather Mac Donald:
Our immigration solution, in a nutshell: Enforce the laws on the books, and favor immigrants whose education and skills will add more to the national prosperity than they cost taxpayers in health care, education, welfare, and — in too many cases — policing and incarceration.

Though the Bush administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming into its recent modest enforcement efforts, these are already having a powerful effect. Apprehensions along a key sector of the Texas border dropped 46 percent after the Border Patrol started prosecuting trespassers, rather than merely releasing them back to Mexico, reports the Houston Chronicle. If the very minor step-up in worksite enforcement continues, enough employers will start observing the law to lead many illegal aliens to remigrate to their countries of origin.

As my co-author Steve Malanga explains, Canada and Australia, among other industrialized nations, now give priority to immigrants with technical knowledge and English language ability. Our immigration policy should continue to be welcoming and liberal, but it should seek to import expertise, rather than poverty.

How did you think Hillary handled that immigration question at last week’s Democratic debate?

Mac Donald: Hillary Clinton cracked apart on the impossible politics of amnesty. Contrary to her wobbling response, it does not make “a lot of sense” to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Doing so only further rewards law-breaking and encourages more people to enter the country illegally or overstay their visas. But Clinton was torn between the belief that she needed to pander to the elite media and to illegal alien advocates, and her gut awareness that they don’t elect the President, the American people do. So she couldn’t get out any position — for or against the licensing give-away — without immediately contradicting it.
Clinton’s attempt to blame the Bush administration for Spitzer’s reckless plan was laughable. She said that the New York governor is trying to “fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.” Translation: “Bush has failed to provide amnesty for all of the country’s 12 million illegals; Spitzer at least is doing so for New York’s own half a million to a million illegals.” Nothing, besides amnesty, links “comprehensive immigration reform” to a license give-away.

Note the irony: If state or local officials try ever so tentatively to “fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration” to enforce immigration rules, the advocates will cry: “Immigration is a federal responsibility! Local politicians and police must sit on their hands when faced with immigrant law-breakers!” But when state or city officials enact legalization policies, that is applauded as taking responsibility for a “serious problem,” in Clinton’s words, that the federal government has ignored.

Does Spitzer have any defense for giving licenses to illegal immigrants? Does DHS?