Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., left, and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., right, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2007, to discuss immigration reform legislation.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Nothing is more common than political "solutions" to immediate problems which create much bigger problems down the road. The current immigration bill in the Senate is a classic example.
The big talking point of those who want to legalize the illegal immigrants currently in the United States is to say that it is "unrealistic" to round up and deport 12 million people.
Back in 1986 it was "unrealistic" to round up and deport the 3 million illegal immigrants in the United States then. So they were given amnesty -- honestly labeled, back then -- which is precisely why there are now 12 million illegal immigrants.
As a result of the current amnesty bill -- not honestly labeled, this time -- will it be "unrealistic" to round up and deport 40 million or 50 million illegal immigrants in the future?
If the current immigration bill is as "realistic" as its advocates claim, why is it being rushed through the Senate faster than a local zoning ordinance could be passed?
We are, after all, talking about a major and irreversible change in the American population, the American culture, and the American political balance. Why is there no time to talk about it?
Are its advocates afraid that the voting public might discover what a fraud it is? The biggest fraud is denying that this is an amnesty bill.
Its advocates' argument is that illegal immigrants will have to meet certain requirements to become citizens. But amnesty is not about how you become a citizen.
The word is from the same root as "amnesia." It means you forget or overlook some crime, as if it never happened. All this elaborate talk about the steps illegal immigrants must go through to become citizens is a distraction from the crime they committed when they crossed the border illegally.
Instead, all attention is focused on what to do to accommodate those who committed this crime. It is a question that would be recognized as an insult to our intelligence on any other issue.
For example, there are undoubtedly thousands, perhaps millions, of unsolved crimes and uncaught criminals in this country and we cannot realistically expect to find and prosecute all these fugitives from justice.
But does anyone suggest that our focus should be on trying to normalize the lives of domestic fugitives from justice -- "bring them out of the shadows" in Ted Kennedy's phrase -- and develop some path by which they can be given an acceptable legal status?
Does anyone suggest that, if domestic criminals come forward, pay some fine, and apply to have their crimes overlooked, they can be put on a path to be restored to good standing in our society?
Just as we don't need to solve every crime and catch every criminal, in order to have deterrents to crime, neither do we have to ferret out and deport every one of the 12 million illegal aliens in this country in order to deter a flood of new illegal aliens.
All across this country, illegal aliens are being caught by the police for all sorts of violations of American laws, from traffic laws to laws against murder. Yet in many, if not most, places the police are under orders not to report these illegal aliens to the federal government.
Imprisoning known and apprehended lawbreakers for the crime of illegally entering this country, in addition to whatever other punishment they receive for other laws that they have broken -- and then sending them back where they came from after their sentences have been served -- would be something that would not be lost on others who are here illegally or who are thinking of coming here illegally.
Just as people can do many things better for themselves than the government can do those things for them, illegal aliens could begin deporting themselves if they found that their crime of coming here illegally was being punished as a serious crime, and that they themselves were no longer being treated as guests of the taxpayers when it comes to their medical care, the education of their children, and other welfare state benefits.
Incidentally, remember that 700-mile fence that Congress authorized last year? Only two miles have been built. That should tell us something about how seriously they are going to enforce other border security provisions in the current bill.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.