It is a stupid idea to wade into a discussion that is winding down, but it’s probably not even the stupidest thing I will do all day. I’m moved to say something because of John’s last point, about pulling back from the edge. I guess I am positioned about where Jonah is in the middle of the Derb-to-John scale, but what continues to grate on me about this discussion is how we possibly find ourselves on the edge of anything.
The problem with this controversy is the seeming sense that it is essential for us to strike some kind of comprehensive solution. Although the proposed solutions are radically different, the sense of urgency for the Big Answer is common among all disputants, whether they are from the trans-nationalist, post-sovereign Left (for whom “rights” for illegals are a natural fit), the portions of the Right kindly toward illegal immigrants due to political/economic calculations, and those on the Right opposed to rights for illegals owing to cultural/economic/rule of law/national security concerns (in whose number I count myself).
I continue to be mystified by this. Government almost always resists hard choices, and thus when it occasionally tries for the Big Answer, it is virtually always the Wrong Answer. See, e.g., intelligence reform, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc., etc. Jonah will hopefully correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always thought Hayek explained the reasons for this – which lie in the inability of fallible humans to foresee and rationally regulate all downstream consequences of ambitious schemes – as well as anyone.
Why do we need a comprehensive solution here? I am not in favor of rounding up and expelling 12 (or 14 or 16 …) million people. I know of very few people in my camp who suggest such an absurd thing. BUT, I similarly don’t see why those millions should have any claim on rights, or on having their status legitimized. No one asked them to come. They came knowing the legal limbo they were getting themselves in for. If they want to run that risk, that’s for them to decide. But their gamble is not my problem – and the fact that 12 million or more have decided to roll the dice should impose no obligation on the Nation to respect that choice by conferring a license on lawlessness.
We need to secure the border. Not only because it is a key aspect of sovereignty but because we now know that there are Hezbollah immigrant-smuggling rings (and no doubt others sympathetic to our enemies). Iran is a growing problem, and al Qaeda is a continuing problem. But if we continue to allow a situation that invites terror cells to infiltrate and embed themselves here, the likelihood of domestic retaliation by those cells is going to reduce our options for dealing with those threats.
We also have enough home-grown criminals – we don’t need the felons of other countries here. Yet, many localities won’t notify the feds when an alien (illegal or not) is arrested or convicted so that deportation can proceed.
Finally, the magnet for illegal immigration is the confidence that employers will hire illegals – i.e., that the laws against same will not be enforced.
So, here’s my proposed Small Answer solution: (a) no mass deportations; (b) secure the border; (c) require states (probably by economic incentives) to alert DHS when an alien is arrested (and require DHS to deport swiftly upon conviction) for felonies that trigger expulsion – so that if we are going to expend resources on deportation, the effort is targeted at the people we really don’t want here; (d) begin enforcing the law against employers who hire illegals; and (e) otherwise kick the can down the road, as government is wont to do with most things, by agreeing to revisit the problem in, say, five years.
If you do these things, employers will stop massively violating the law, many aliens who would have come won’t even try, and many who are here will leave voluntarily or will pursue legal means to stay. That is, five years from now – in the absence of having had to enact much, if any, legislation at the present time – you will have significantly fewer illegals, and you may decide you don’t need to do anything else.
This is not a problem that needs to be wiped out – like al Qaeda. It needs to be managed with sensible law enforcement and border security. THAT, and not the Big Answer, is what we lack right now.