The Corner

The Fake Argument Against Immigration Enforcement First

Greg Sargent writes that you’ll know the Republicans are serious about passing an immigration bill if the long-promised “principles” permit the legalization of the illegal population before the achievement of enforcement benchmarks. In other words, Enforcement First is flatly unacceptable, and enforcement triggers may only be related to the potential upgrade of amnesty recipients to full green-card status, not the initial grant of legal status. He quotes Frank Sharry, the Professor Moriarty at the center of the web of open-borders lobbying, on why amnesty must precede enforcement:

We all know triggers are going to be part of a final immigration reform bill. But if Republicans put unworkable triggers before initial legal status for undocumented immigrants — by mandating the nationwide E-Verify system has to be operational, or border security has to be 100% — it will put millions of immigrants out of work before they have a chance to get some sort of provisional status. That would be a deal-killer for immigration reform.

This is simply false, and Sharry knows it’s false. (Sargent may be too unfamiliar with immigration to know better.) A requirement that E-Verify be fully operational before any legalization would not — could not — “put millions of immigrants out of work” because E-Verify is only for new hires. (And how border security could put any current illegal aliens out of work is a mystery.) As I point out in the current issue of the magazine (currently behind the paywall, I’m afraid, though it only costs two bits to read), the enforcement prerequisites for amnesty would mainly focus on preventing new illegal immigration: Border security (including criminal prosecution of 100 percent of new border infiltrators), universal E-Verify, and exit tracking for foreign visitors.

While current illegal aliens looking for new jobs would be outed by universal E-Verify, no one with a job would be put out of work. Retroactively E-Verifying existing workers should be required as part of any future amnesty deal so that those who didn’t get amnesty, but stayed anyway, would indeed be thrown out of work, taken into custody, and sent home. But that’s not required for full implementation of the system.

In fact, this is a debate the Republicans should relish. Make the Democrats say that they reject Enforcement First and demand amnesty up front, even if the promised enforcement never happens. In response, Republicans should say to the public — and take the message directly to immigrant communities — that, given the long, sorry history of non-enforcement, they acknowledge there’s a practical argument for amnestying long-established, non-violent illegal aliens (with green cards, not Saudi-style helot status) but that they don’t trust politicians, even of their own party, to follow through on enforcement promises. Because of that, they insist that a list of specific things be in place first, so we don’t just end up in a decade or so back where we started. “In God We Trust, all others pay cash,” as it were. It’s a simple, clear message that resonates even with people not focused on politics, and it also happens to be good policy.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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