Immigration Platitudes and Press Conferences

by Victor Davis Hanson

For all the familiar boilerplate rhetoric, the president will probably reject linkage between border enforcement and de facto amnesty, because he philosophically and politically does not seem to mind a porous border, given the manner in which changing demography seems to help the short-term political prospects of his party, and given that massive influxes have diminished somewhat because of poor economic times here. In any case, border enforcement has gone the way of holding the line on taxes — a so pre-2010 thing.

Both the president’s and the senators’ plans I think will run into trouble, once the details leak out and can be fully appreciated — and more balanced polls do not just survey attitudes about those who are sympathetic beneficiaries, but also about those less so.

Thus far we have not appreciated fully the extent of the open-border agenda and their reaction to any carrot and stick proposals. For if the government now believes that it has the power to adjudicate who qualifies for a pathway for citizenship, then that power apparently means it also can determine who does not.

And if we assume (a) the present situation is intolerable, and (b) we will grant residential amnesties to many, then (c) by needs we must deport some. Given that we have no idea how many foreign nationals are here illegally or their precise status and histories, and have no idea their costs to government services, I doubt the government can or will suddenly produce data to determine criteria for residency versus deportation.

And what would be the criteria for failure to qualify for amnesty? Convictions of a crime (cf. the current number of illegal aliens in the California penal system alone)? — and, if so, does a DUI and reckless driving (cf. the ongoing saga of Onyango Obama who hit a police cruiser while intoxicated), or hit-and-run (e.g., about half of current Los Angeles traffic accidents) count?

Not gainfully employed — if so, for how long? 

On public assistance, if so, for how long? 

Recent arrival? What about those who simply crossed after 2008 when talk of amnesty was in the air, and who were not “in the shadows” for years? Is there a residency requirement, and if so how long would that be? 

And if we talk of “comprehensive immigration reform,” are we including legal immigration reform, in that we might show preference for pathways to those who apply legally from the outset, who have educational and technological expertise and who are self-sufficient? 

Are we really saying that from now on the Nigerian with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, who is waiting legally to come to Silicon Valley, should be privileged for consideration over someone without a high-school diploma from the interior of Mexico, who has the ability simply to cross the border in a way the latter does not?

It is an easy thing to pontificate grandly about bringing “millions out of the shadows” (e.g., those who have lived here, say, five years at least, who have been gainfully employed, not been on public assistance, and not been convicted of a crime), but quite another as a requisite also to add that many thousands who would not meet such criteria would be identified and deported in a way they were not in the past, and that the present system as we have known it, and as it has profited a number of interested parties, would come to cessation

So far the push for comprehensive immigration reform is mostly mush, and not serious about predicating future legal immigration on classically liberal notions of meritocracy, legality, skills, education, and ethnic blindness, much less about both rewarding and punishing those who would not fit so-called pathway criteria.

I think as the negotiations continue, and as the president barnstorms the country, and as activists weigh in, the senators will begin to learn that they’ve been had: there is going to be lots of talk about the DREAM Act, “fairness,” “out of the shadows” — and very little about border enforcement, E-Verify, returning to their home countries the tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) who would not qualify for any reasonable pathway to citizenship, and even less said about using a classically-liberal merit-based, ethnically-blind policy that would replace the present one that has privileged millions who came illegally, and largely from Latin America — and an equal number, left and right, who are invested in the practice of illegal immigration.

So until we get the tough details, expect more platitudes and press conferences.

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