Get Real about Immigration
By Thomas Sowell
A wholly political solution.
Whose problem is the immigration bill in Congress supposed to solve? The country's problem with
dangerously porous borders? The illegal immigrants' problem? Or politicians' problems?
It has been painfully clear for years that the country's problem with insecure borders and floods
of foreigners who remain a foreign - and growing - part of the American population has the
lowest priority of the three.
Virtually every step - even token steps - that Congress and the administration have taken
toward securing the border has been backed into under pressure from the voters.
The National Guardsmen who were sent to the border but not assigned to guard the border, the
700-mile fence on paper that has become the two-mile fence in practice, and the existing
"tough" penalties for the crime of crossing the border illegally that in practice mean turning
the illegal border crossers loose so that they can try, try again - such actions speak louder
The new immigration bill that supposedly secures the borders first, before starting the process
of legalizing the illegal immigrants, in fact does nothing of the sort.
It sets up various programs and procedures - but does not wait to see if they in fact reduce
the flow of illegal immigrants before taking the irrevocable step of making American
citizenship available to 12 million people who came here illegally.
This solves the problem of those illegal immigrants who want to get citizenship. The steps that
they have to go through allow politicians to say that this is not amnesty because these are
But, whether these requirements are "tough" or not, and regardless of how they are enforced or
not, there is nothing to say that the 12 million people here illegally have to start the process
of becoming citizens.
Those who do not choose to become citizens - which may well be the majority of illegal
immigrants - face no more prospect of being punished for the crime of entering the country
illegally than they do now.
With the focus now shifted to the process of getting citizenship, those illegal immigrants who
just want to stay and make some money without being bothered to become part of American
society can be forgotten, along with their crime.
This bill gets the issue off the table and out of the political spotlight. That solves the problem
of politicians who want to mollify American voters in general without risking the loss of the
The Hispanic vote can be expected to become larger and larger as the new de facto amnesty
can be expected to increase the number of illegal border crossers, just as the previous -
and honestly labeled - amnesty bill of 1986 led to a quadrupling of the number of illegals.
The larger the Hispanic vote becomes, the less seriously are the restrictive features of the
immigration bill likely to be enforced.
The growth of the illegal population is irreversible but the means of controlling the growth of
illegals are quite reversible, both de facto through the watering down of the enforcement
of 'tough' requirements and de jure through later repeals of requirements deemed too
One of the remarkable aspects of the proposed immigration 'reform' is its provisions for
cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Employers are to be punished for
not detecting and excluding illegal immigrants, when the government itself is derelict in
Employers not only lack expertise in law enforcement, they can be sued for "discrimination"
by any of the armies of lawyers who make such lawsuits their lucrative specialty.
But no penalties are likely to be enforced against state and local politicians who openly
declare "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants. Officials sworn to uphold the law instead
forbid the police to report the illegal status of immigrants to federal officials when these
illegals are arrested for other crimes.
This is perfectly consistent for a bill that seeks above all to solve politicians' problems, not
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