The Corner

Stick to Enforcement First

When you ask people whether they think “undocumented immigrants” should be able to “earn” legal status by “paying their taxes” or whether they should all be deported, it’s no surprise that a lot of people pick door No. 1. But questions that aren’t based on the pro-amnesty side’s assumptions yield different results.

A new poll of likely voters commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies finds majority support, and dramatically more intense support, for illegal immigrants to return to their home countries rather than be given legal status (and “given” is the proper word, since there has never been a proposal that would require illegals to “earn” legal status). You can see the questions and results here.

But what I found most interesting were the questions MSM polls don’t even think to ask. In particular, few people think enforcement has been adequate in the past or would be adequate in the wake of an amnesty. When asked whether they thought enforcement of immigration laws had been too much, too little, or just right, nearly two-thirds said “too little,” as opposed to 10 percent “too much” and 15 percent “just right.” Even pluralities of liberals and Democrats said “too little.”

Related questions found the same thing. Respondents overwhelmingly felt that inadequate enforcement was the reason we had so many illegal immigrants here, as opposed to the corporate/leftist argument that we hadn’t been letting in enough legal immigrants. Similarly, only about a quarter thought immigration laws would be enforced after an amnesty.

The upshot is that opponents of the Obama/Schumer/Rubio approach of Amnesty First should focus not on the irrelevant issue of what form the amnesty might take (work visas vs. green cards) but on the deep lack of public trust that the political class is committed to ensuring the security of America’s borders. In fact, before any illegal alien is asked to “earn” anything, our political elite needs to earn the trust of the American people — not through phony claims of “record deportations” or “the border is secure,” but through completion of the immigration security infrastructure they have been forced, kicking and screaming, to work on for the past 20 years.

The only reason we’ve seen any improvement, however modest, is public outrage and unwillingness to grant the political class the amnesty it so desperately craves. The political establishment can earn the public’s trust in this matter only when we have universal use of E-Verify, Social Security, and IRS cooperation with immigration in rooting out identity theft, a fully functional entry-exit system for foreign visitors, and systematic efforts by the State Department to identify and prevent visa fraud.

Even without such systemic improvements, Obama would have gone a long way toward earning trust if only he had ensured that his illegal-alien relatives Auntie Zeituni and Uncle Omar had been deported when they were discovered. The fact that they’re still here (and in Auntie Zeituni’s case, still living off the taxpayer) is, in itself, conclusive proof of his frivolous approach to immigration security.

When Enforcement First is satisfied, you will see much more willingness to eat the crap sandwich of amnesty as a way of tying up the loose ends of past mistakes. But not until then.

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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