The Corner

Serious Question for Amnesty Backers

The president has pledged to start pushing his immigration plan in Congress this month. Whatever the details, the outlines are known to everyone — amnesty for most illegal immigrants plus increases in future immigration (in the form of guestworkers or regular immigrants or both), in exchange for promises of future enforcement, such as mandatory E-Verify and the like.

Following up on my piece on the home page today, I’d like to ask conservative supporters of the president’s immigration stance one question: Do they actually believe the Obama administration will enforce the immigration laws once the illegals already here have been legalized? If so, what is your basis for that belief? And if not, how can you support a deal that exchanges amnesty for future promises of enforcement?

One reply I can imagine is that the increases in future immigration will effectively eliminate any numerical caps, so that everyone who wants to come will be able to do so. In other words, once immigration is unlimited, there’s really no longer any such thing as illegal immigration, and so no need for immigration enforcement. That’s a stance that libertarian purists can take, but is that the stance of any politically relevant Republican supporters of the president’s immigration approach?

Alternatively, some might argue that illegal immigration is over, so we’ve got nothing to lose. In that scenario, immigration enforcement has been rendered moot, because there is no new illegal immigration. But even the Pew report that everyone points to on this shows there was net immigration from Mexico in 2005–2010 (the report engineered the result of no net immigration from Mexico — same number leaving as arriving — by including U.S.-born kids in Mexican immigrant families in the departure figures). What’s more, there’s a whole world of potential illegal aliens beyond Mexico — Central Americans, for instance, now account for most apprehensions in South Texas.

Maybe there’s some other rationale I’m not thinking of. In any case, the question has to be the starting point for Grover Norquist, Richard Land, Lindsey Graham, Sean Hannity, and others on the right backing the president on immigration: Do you really believe that Obama will enforce immigration law any more after the amnesty than before?

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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