The Corner

Uniform Amnesty

I don’t know if the lefties will storm my talk this evening at Michigan State, but I did tick off a lot of people Wednesday with my comments in a piece on CNN. The story is about a sailor whose wife faces deportation and it argues for amnesty for illegal-alien spouses of service members. The story was obviously placed by amnesty lobbyists; the husband was actually a Democratic witness at a House hearing a month ago on the STRIVE Act amnesty.

What angered readers (sample: “You could do us all a favor and fade away under the rock you crawled out from under”) was this:

A judge in June granted her a one-year extension to remain in the United States. If her legal status does not change by June 8, 2008, she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

That’s just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

“What you’re talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that’s just outrageous,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. … There’s no justification for that kind of policy.”

Of course, the glib “that’s just fine” didn’t come from me — that’s an artifact of the reporter. But as to the substance, there are two questions. First, should this specific person get special treatment outside the law. And more broadly, should illegal-alien family members of servicemen automatically be given amnesty, as argued in the piece by Margaret Stock, a West Point law professor (and immigration enthusiast who’s largely responsible for the Federalist Society’s surprisingly weak stance on immigration).

As to the first — the law obviously always needs room for flexibility, and this is about as sympathetic a case as you’ll find. The problem is that our immigration system has evolved into almost nothing but exceptions for special cases; “no” never means “no,” and as Michelle Malkin has put it, “it ain’t over til the alien wins.” At some point, someone is going to have to be inconvenienced if we’re ever going to have an immigration policy that sticks, even one modeled on the failed Bush-Kennedy amnesty — unless, of course, what you’re really after is open borders.

The broader question is whether enlisting in the armed forces should be a ticket to legal status for illegal-alien family members, or even, a la the DREAM Act, a route to amnesty for illegal aliens themselves. The magnet this would create for new illegal immigration and marriage fraud is difficult to underestimate, not to mention the crowding-out effect it would have on American enlistments — no amount of education benefits for prospective American enlistees could match the attraction of a green card for an illegal alien.

As with the matter of exercising discretion, if the numbers of people involved were small, you could get away this sort of thing. But when the immigration laws go unenforced for years and you have a large illegal population, flexibility and exceptions for special cases simply makes things worse. This is why we need a strong, long dose of muscular enforcement, with all the sob stories that will accompany it, to shrink the illegal population and regain control over immigration. Only then would it be possible to exercise discretion without making the problem worse.

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