The Corner

Obama’s Latest De Facto Amnesty and the Push to Delegitimate Deportation

It’s time for the open-borders lobby to come clean: What penalty, if any, for illegal immigration would it accept? Last week, the Obama administration announced that it would further narrow the categories of illegal aliens that it would even consider for deportation. Possible candidates for this latest de facto amnesty include illegal aliens without a serious felony conviction (petty criminals are still welcome), illegal aliens who have ignored deportation orders, and illegal aliens who have reentered the country after being deported, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The White House has shelved for now a breathtakingly audacious bootstrap mechanism allegedly backed by Senators Reid, Harkin, Menendez, and Durbin. The idea there is to grant immunity from deportation to the parents of illegal aliens who have been given amnesty under the various iterations of the DREAM Act. This mechanism, of which we will undoubtedly hear more in the future, turns on its head the original justification for the DREAM Act: That the children of illegal aliens should not be held responsible for the decision of their parents to break the law by illegal entry. Under this shamelessly cheeky proposal, however, those amnestied children would now have the power to immunize their law-breaking parents from deportation.

The administration’s announcement is the latest victory in the advocates’ decade-long campaign to delegitimate deportation as a response to illegal immigration. At stake is the very concept of national sovereignty and national borders. If someone enters a country without that country’s permission and has no right to be there, removal is the natural and logical response, one practiced by virtually every other nation, and certainly by Mexico in response to the transit of illegal aliens across its borders. The illegal-alien lobby, however, argues that deportation is an illegitimate and inhumane use of state power. Its goal, as its protest signs read, is to “end all deportations.”  

So what punishment would the advocates accept for illegal entry? Certainly not prison time. That would be subject to the same cries of “separating families” that are regularly lodged against deportation. A de minimis fine, perhaps, as in the “comprehensive immigration reform” bill justly languishing in the Senate? But if someone who comes into the country illegally cannot be deported, but merely needs to pay a fine to legalize his presence, then the distinction between illegal and legal entry is for all practical purposes eviscerated. There would be no reason not to enter the country illegally; the fine would simply be the price of admission. And if someone can’t be removed for illegal entry, then a country has lost the right and ability to control its borders. America’s immigration policy would lie in the hands of people living outside the country, whose decisions about entry would be translated from a de facto to a de jure policy.

The push to end deportations belongs to a broader effort to normalize illegal entry that includes the awarding of driver’s licenses, law licenses, in-state tuition, tuition assistance, and the protection of local sanctuary laws, among other measures, to illegal aliens. And it would be folly to think that the crusade against deportation is just a stopgap measure until we fix our so-called “broken immigration system.” There is no chance that the activists will tolerate the deportation of those who come after we have legalized the 11 million illegal aliens already here. The arguments will remain the same. 

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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