Chuck Schumer is the kind of senator who gives used-car salesmen a bad name. My colleague Jerry Kammer used a colloquy between Schumer and Senator Rob Portman last year on the Senate floor to illustrate the two lawmakers’ differing approaches to the immigration issue. Portman, whatever his views on the broader questions of immigration, wanted to make sure any new law would actually work, whereas Schumer’s focus was simply to get a legislative deal completed. He remains proud of his role in putting together the last-minute deal that allowed passage of the 1986 amnesty bill, despite the fact that it turned out to be a fiasco. Schumer’s approach to immigration enforcement, and policy in general, seems to be summed up by the immortal words of Dick Jones: “Who cares if it worked or not?“
Schumer’s latest gambit came Sunday, when he suggested on Meet the Press that House Republicans pass an amnesty for all illegal aliens who arrived before the end of last year (i.e., a month and a half ago), “but simply not let it actually start until 2017, after President Obama’s term is over.” This would supposedly address the lack of trust that Obama will faithfully execute the laws, which Speaker Boehner offered as the reason he was putting the brakes on his amnesty push.
Where to begin? First of all, most of us don’t trust Boehner any more than Obama. (And I don’t think anyone trusts Schumer.) Furthermore, why on Earth would House Republicans negotiate a deal with Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer when next year they might well be working with Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz? Heck, even John Cornyn’s light-years better on immigration than any of the Democrats. (The jury’s still out on McConnell, assuming he’ll still be in the Senate next year.) And who says the next president will be any better regarding immigration? I mean, really — Hillary? Biden? Jeb? Christie? Rubio? Ryan?
In that vein, it’s important to understand that the amnesty/enforcement problem isn’t specific to Obama. It’s true that he is a faithless executive, whose public lies and brazen usurpation of congressional authority are without precedent in our history. Republican proponents of amnesty telling us to trust Obama should be ashamed of themselves.
But there are systemic reasons that enforcement has to be fully in place before starting any amnesty. The interest groups militating against immigration enforcement are extraordinarily strong and persistent: crony capitalists who demand no-strings-attached access to cheap foreign labor; post-American civil libertarians, both left and right, who reject the legitimacy of the nation-state; ethnic chauvinist groups who demand the arrival of ever-more people they can pretend to speak for. A deal that legalizes illegal aliens in exchange for a promise of future enforcement cannot succeed because even those pro-amnesty politicians who aren’t lying about their commitment to future enforcement will lose any incentive to follow through once the amnesty is in place. The result would be another 12 million illegal aliens and this same debate a decade or two from now.
That’s why the way forward starts with enforcement — not just bogus claims of “record” levels of deportations, but the full implementation of E-Verify and visa-tracking and a show of good faith from the executive by pursuing a zero-tolerance policy, now, toward all new border infiltrators and visa overstayers. Once all that’s up and running, and has survived the inevitable ACLU/Chamber of Commerce/AFL-CIO legal jihad against it, and we’ve seen several straight years of attrition in the illegal population, then we can negotiate a deal that includes amnesty for long-established, non-violent illegal aliens. If George Bush had understood that, and began such a program in 2001, the amnesty would be over by now and illegal immigration would be a mere nuisance. If Barack Obama had understood that, and began truly putting in place the necessary enforcement tools in 2009, we’d be well along the road to a solution.
Schumer is trying, yet again, to sell us a lemon. Time to walk away.