The Corner

We Promise to Keep Enforcing the Law, Honest!

Chuck Schumer is making a big show of (the Bush administration’s!) immigration enforcement successes, arguing, in the words of the Washington Times story, that “lawmakers have proved to the nation that they are serious about security. Now, he said, voters should be ready to accept a law that legalizes illegal immigrants and rewrites immigration rules.”

Uh, not yet. First of all, this is a man who tried to filibuster the Secure Fence Act, so the only thing he’s serious about is making a political feint to dupe enough of his fellow congressmen into voting for amnesty.

More generally, the genuine improvements we’ve seen (the lowest number of border arrests in 30-plus years, for instance) are just the beginning of any serious effort to regain control and thus (from Schumer’s perspective) prepare the ground for an amnesty. There were still nearly three-quarters of a million Border Patrol arrests last year, and there are still some 11 million (maybe a little less now) illegal aliens living here.

What’s more, the story line that the open-borders folks have been peddling is that the decline in illegal crossings is purely a function of the bad economy; research by two of my colleagues shows that not to be the case (the decline in the total illegal population began before the recession, as soon as the amnesty bill collapsed in the summer of 2007), but the economy obviously is a big part of it. But if the economy’s part of the reason for the decline in illegal immigration (and the increase in the number of illegals deporting themselves), then it certainly doesn’t prove that lawmakers are “serious about security.”

To prove that, new enforcement measures must be institutionalized, and thus harder to abandon once the amnesty is completed, as happened with the bait-and-switch of the 1986 amnesty. For instance, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, Obama’s expansion of screening for illegal aliens to all local jails will take at least four years to fully roll out — no lawmaker can say with a straight face that we’re now “serious about security” until that’s fully in place. Likewise with the mandatory use of E-Verify for all new hires; Heath Shuler’s SAVE Act laid out a four-year phase-in period and his bill hasn’t even been passed yet. Ditto with full implementation of US-Visit, the check-in/check-out system at the borders, which was mandated by Congress in 1996 and which still does not cover the vast majority of foreigners entering the country (virtually all Mexicans and Canadians are exempt because it would slow business at border-town Wal-Marts), and even fewer people are actually checked out.

Fool us once, shame on you, Chuck; fool us twice, shame on us.

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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