The Corner

Drugs and Immigration

One of Jonah’s correspondents suggests that if I’m for legalizing pot because the law against it is unenforceable, I should also be for legalizing illegal immigrants because the immigration laws are unenforceable, too. Yet there I was on the Corner yesterday, criticizing the argument that legalization was a solution to illegal immigration.

It seems to me there are two different kinds of arguments here. I was criticizing an argument for amnesty for illegal immigrants that, if applied to drugs, would take this form: “Legalizing drugs would send the crime rate way down, because buying, selling, and using drugs would no longer be illegal.” It seems to me that this argument would be fairly stupid, and is not an important argument of drug legalizers.

Here are two other possible arguments: 1) “Legalizing drugs, or amnesty for illegal immigrants, would free up law-enforcement resources and prison space to fight more serious offenses.” 2) “Laws regulating drugs or immigration are difficult to enforce, and a serious effort to enforce them would entail unacceptable costs, so we should get rid of them.” These arguments are, I think, much more reasonable and require a refutation. Also, obviously, our judgments as to the validity of either type of argument might vary depending on whether we are talking about drugs or immigration. I am very sympathetic to argument two with respect to marijuana.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.