The Corner

Re: The Immigration Debate On the Right

Great points, Jonah.  I’m an enforcement first person, but I’ve got to say I think this is hard stuff, I’m still struggling with it, and it galls me when people on either side treat it like it’s easy and, therefore, impugn your motives if you are on what they perceive to be the wrong side — which is just a cheap way of ducking the tough questions.

Here’s an example.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want to round up and deport millions of illegals — I know of few enforcement first people who do.  So I say reasonably enforce the law — crack down on employers who hire illegals, deport the felons as they come on law enforcement’s radar screen in connection with other crimes, build up a record that the government is now serious about controlling immigration – and the problem will be manageable. 

Sounds good.  BUT … I think the pro-reform side has a very good point when they say:  We need to know who the hell is in the United States.  Creating a situation in which it’s de facto acceptable for people to be “in the shadows” and otherwise unaccounted for is a big national security problem.  It is probably not as big a problem as we would create by encouraging more illegal immigration (as I believe the current proposal would do), but it’s still something to be very concerned about.

Here’s the problem:  You can’t, as a practical matter, get people to come forward and be identified unless you give them something in return — some kind of legal status.  I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I can understand why some people do.  If you take their position, you will almost surely make the problem worse.  But, if you take my position — namely, no round-up but no legalization — you should be ready honestly to say you are willing to abide a situation where we don’t know who is inside our country. 

On balance, I think that is the lesser evil, but I’m not comfortable with or happy about my position – and I really resent it when a good faith struggle to arrive at the best policy gets caricatured by people who pretend this is all so easy.