The Corner

Is Enforcement First the Same as Mass Deportation?

My Bloomberg View colleague Francis Wilkinson takes aim at Rubio for saying that immigration laws should be enforced at the workplace before any illegal immigrant is given legal status. Making businesses screen their employees’ legal status, Wilkinson says, would throw millions of illegal immigrants out of work, and so the prospect of legalization that Rubio is holding out for illegal immigrants is mostly a mirage.

If Rubio is serious about this — I asked his campaign for clarification but received none — he is proposing the equivalent of Mitt Romney’s self-deportation, preceded by mass evictions and mass privation. 

It’s the sort of outcome that makes Donald Trump’s systematic mass deportation of 11 million sound reasonable and humane by comparison.

There may be good objections to Rubio’s immigration position, but I think it would be easy to address Wilkinson’s concern. Just apply the screening only to new hires. (The immigration service says that right now it’s only legal to apply it to new hires.) Millions of illegal immigrants wouldn’t be suddenly forced to leave the country, and a lot of them could still be eventually considered for legal status.  True, some illegal immigrants would be unable to find work–because they lost their jobs or had just gotten here–and would have to leave the country. But if you’re against any illegal immigrant’s ever having to leave, then you’re against having an immigration policy at all.

(disclosure)

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.

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