Amnesty’s Return?
Reacting to the president’s El Paso speech.


James Jay Carafano

It is really difficult to take the president seriously on immigration when he talks as he did Tuesday in El Paso.

First, Americans have serious concerns about border security. If he thinks making cracks about “alligators” and “moats” is going to address them, then he needs lessons on appropriate humor.

Obama’s assurances are cold comfort when on the other side of the border there are criminal cartels (fueled by billions of dollars) willing to kidnap, rape, and murder to stay in business. Furthermore, we know that border security is woefully inadequate as is. Providing additional incentives to immigrate illegally — which is the ultimate effect of the DREAM Act — is no way to improve matters.

The DREAM Act, which fosters dreams of amnesty, will encourage more unlawful entry, just as it did in 1986 — the last time we tried amnesty. The president also neglected to mention the cost of these legalization measures. Does he really think taxpayers are eager to shell out tens of billions of dollars to legalize 11 million illegal aliens?

This is not a problem the president can solve with tired ideas that have been rejected by the Congress and the American people again and again. Another speech, or even SEAL Team Six, won’t make a difference. What is needed is a real commitment to border security, workplace and immigration enforcement, and temporary-worker programs that get employers the employees they need, when they need them, to help grow the economy. 

 — James Jay Carafano is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.


James R. Edwards Jr.

The president’s El Paso speech boils down to this: claiming the Obama administration has delivered on a secure border and challenging Congress to pass “comprehensive immigration reform.”

There was little said here that George W. Bush couldn’t have said (or did say at one time or another). Obama invoked E pluribus unum and talked about the 11 million illegal aliens who “live in the shadows” (like in front of the local 7-Eleven).

One twist: “comprehensive immigration reform” (i.e., amnesty) as a job-creation solution. In focusing on gains in competitiveness were we to hand green cards to every foreign student, the president left unaddressed the fact that legalizing 11 million illegal aliens, most of whom lack education and skills, would impose an immediate fiscal drain on the U.S. welfare state. And their eligibility to work lawfully here would flood the labor market, making struggling Americans face an even tougher job market, because the former illegals would undercut them on wages.

Obama claimed he has secured the border. Not so. The Government Accountability Office says we have operational control of only 129 miles of the 2,000-mile southern border. Apprehensions are down because of Washington’s orders not to take illegal crossers into custody.

The president’s “solution” is the same amnesty package that was beat back in 2006 and 2007: mass amnesty, the same ineffective “penalties” as in previous amnesties, and more legal immigration with chain migration left intact.

What can be done in this political environment? If Obama led with a phased-in requirement that businesses use the E-Verify employment-eligibility system, this would prove the most viable, acceptable means of demagnetizing the jobs magnet and disincentivizing illegal immigration.

A critical step in getting public buy-in for dealing with the illegal-alien population down the road would be to eliminate the chain-migration visas — the very reason for prolonged separation of spouses and of immigrant parents and minor children.

— James R. Edwards Jr. is coauthor of The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform.


John Fonte

Ah, good old civility. President Obama refers to “the very Republicans” who support border enforcement — “Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat.” He tells us with a straight face that the “fence is now basically complete.” What to make of the El Paso speech? Try political, partisan, divisive, and dishonest. The substance? He proposes a rehash of old “comprehensive reform” proposals: Illegal immigrants should pay taxes, pay a fine, learn English, and then “get in line for legalization.” But other non-citizens have been in line for decades. What happens to them? He says “businesses have to be held accountable” but never endorses the employment-enforcement program that works: E-Verify.