Politics & Policy

Born on the Fifth of July

(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
On the matter of illegal immigration, we are effectively governed by criminals.

Considering the sundry enthusiasms upon which government at all level spends our money — Harry Reid’s bovine literary interests, helping out those poor struggling people who own Boeing — it is remarkable that the job of apprehending a known felon, once deported from the United States and illegally present in Texas, fell to volunteers in Brooks County, near the Mexican border. Brooks County, like many other border areas, is overrun with illegal immigrants, and the cost of burying those illegals who die in transit, which can run into the six figures annually, has forced the county to cut back on regular law enforcement. And thus we have the volunteer deputies who brought in the felon, who after he injured his ankle had been been abandoned by the coyotes — professional human traffickers — who had brought him across the border. The volunteers were in the process of working a 26-hour shift — that’s 26 hours, not a typo. Consider for a moment that the cost of illegals’ breaking the law is so high that enforcing the law has been handed over to unpaid volunteers.

Similar scenes are playing out across the border. Nearby Duval County, Texas, was the scene of a dramatic car chase when a truckload of illegals was spotted by police, who determined that the vehicle was outfitted with a fraudulent license plate. Two were killed and a dozen injured in the pursuit. (Many years ago, Duval County enjoyed the services of an elected Democratic sheriff whose grandson is a familiar figure here at National Review.) Nearly 200,000 illegals have crossed into Texas’s Rio Grande Valley this year, and the cartels that oversee the coyote operations have the local landowners terrorized into compliance. This includes the trafficking of minors and others destined for the sex trade; perversely, the Department of Homeland Security has been known to send minors trafficked across the border on to their final destinations, thus “completing the criminal mission” of the traffickers, in the words of one federal judge.

Far from the Mexican border, in the South Carolina town of Lexington, Sheriff James Metts is a crusader against illegal immigration, one who successfully persuaded the federal government to allow his deputies to question those they believe to be illegally present in the country and, when warranted, to begin deportation proceedings on the feds’ behalf. In June, Sheriff Metts was indicted by a grand jury on charges of taking bribes from a local restaurateur to release illegals in his employ. According to the indictment, the bribes came from Gregorio M. Leon, owner of the San Jose Mexican restaurant. Both men are well known and, until recently, were admired for their community spirit. One wonders why Mr. Leon would bother with a bribe; if he were hiring illegals, he’d likely receive gentle treatment from the Obama administration. While talking tough about cracking down on those who employ illegals, the administration has in fact been systematically reducing penalties handed down for that felony, according to an inspector general’s report. Fines have been reduced by as much as two-thirds or even four-fifths; there are millions of illegals working in the United States, but there is nothing even approaching a proportional number — or a rounding error on it — of businessmen serving time for employing them.

Democrats, always on the lookout for an opportunity to swell the dependency rolls, turn a blind eye to this invasion; their main interest is in normalizing the status of illegals as quickly as possible. Republicans, apparently determined to live up to the caricature of being unable to tell one brown Spanish-speaking person from another, are in a panic that they will lose the Hispanic vote unless they turn a blind eye to what is not only systematic lawlessness but an all-out assault on the sovereignty of the country. Little wonder, then, that federal plans to relocate illegals have been met with vigorous and sometimes rowdy protests by locals.

There is perhaps no one who appreciates the meaning of a border better than an illegal immigrant. The line that divides the United States from what is south of it is the most significant demarcation in their lives. And while it is no argument for failing to enforce the law, one cannot blame those who are willing to risk and endure so much to escape life in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, etc. But we can blame those who fail to enforce the law. We can blame the Obama administration and corrupt law-enforcement officials for actively subverting the law. And we can certainly blame businessmen who encourage chaos, violence, and human trafficking in the service of their own narrow and slightly pathetic interests: Surely, busboys and dishwashers are not so scarce in South Carolina that one must effectively get into bed with the cartels in order to get the tables cleared.

Unhappily, the combination of interests linked to immigration lawlessness — the progressives’ dependency agenda and the Chamber of Commerce’s self-interest — make this a very difficult battle to win. On the matter of illegal immigration, as on so many similar issues, we are effectively governed by criminals. But if we had half as much appreciation for the importance of national borders as do those who are illegally crossing them did, we would make this one of the top items on our national agenda. We may have compassion for the citizens of Mexico, but our duty is to the citizens of these United States. On Friday we had fireworks; on Monday, we require action.

— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.

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