The Corner

Jonah On Immigration

Jonah: Thanks for a good thoughtful piece on the immigration thing. I have

issues, though. Here’s just one:

You write that: “Once you accept that these eight million illegals are here

and that – contrary to dreams of a few on the far right – there’s no way

we’re going to be able to bounce them out of the country en masse…”

One of the cliches of this debate is that “you can’t very well deport them

all, can you?” Well, actually, we probably could if we wanted to. In the

1954 Operation Wetback (sorry, that’s what it was called), the INS claimed

to have sent 1,300,000 illegals back to Mexico using a force of only 700

officers. The figures have been disputed; but as a matter of sheer

practicality, I do not believe that deporting eight million illegals with

current resources is unthinkable. Whether it is POLITICALLY–which

nowadays, of course, largely means “judicially”–possible is, I certainly

agree, another matter. Still, conscientious commentators should not

entertain false beliefs even about impossibilities, and to the best of my

understanding the statement that we simply cannot physically deport eight

million illegal aliens is false.

But the real scandal here is not that we are failing to deport ALL illegal

aliens, even supposing we could, but that we are failing to deport ANY. If

you have cast-iron evidence that I am an illegal alien, and you take that

evidence to your local immigration enforcement office, they will do nothing.

We know this because enterprising citizens have been trying it out and

logging their efforts on immigration-restrictionist web sites. If the

authorities just did what they could, and deported those illegal aliens who

came to their attention, the chilling effect would cause far larger numbers

to drift back to their home countries. (Which is part of what happened in

1954.) Yet we do nothing. This is disgraceful. Traffic cops on the

expressway don’t catch any but a small proportion of speeders, but they

catch enough to make the rest of us wary.