Donald Trump has thrown down the gauntlet by calling for the deportation of roughly 11 million illegal immigrants inside America, including their U.S. citizen children. Trump’s mass deportations would cost no less than $140 billion, and likely much more. Never mind the noxious idea of deporting Americans, and that any political support for Trump’s proposal will implode when the cameras capture families detained and sent packing. To round up those families would require federal agents to raid millions of homes and businesses on an unprecedented scale from Maine to California. Even if the feds hit 99% of all the right locations, which they won’t, it could still result in tens of thousands of homes and businesses wrongly raided by federal agents.
After rounding everyone up and sending them on their way, Mr. Trump would then let the “good ones” back into the U.S. But why go through all the trouble of deporting the good ones when those people can be screened without being deported at a much lower financial and human cost?
While Trump’s idea of 11 million-plus deportations may be over the top, there are good reasons why so many Americans remain angry over the state of immigration, and hostile to “comprehensive immigration reform” involving a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and guest worker programs. These concerns were exacerbated by President Obama’s recent executive order – the one he said a dozen or so times he did not have the legal authority to issue – granting a reprieve from deportation to millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
As it has been proposed twice over the last decade, comprehensive immigration reform is not real policy. It is the illusion of policy making through legislative slight-of-hand, where the failure to control immigration in the past is codified as today’s solution by simply re-categorizing those here illegally as here legally. This is followed by assurances of future border security and the like. However, one cannot make immigration policy without first controlling who comes into the country, and ensuring those admitted leave when their time is up. To do otherwise virtually guarantees that the nation will have a new influx of millions of illegal immigrants over the next 20 years. This is no theory, it has already happened.
In 1986, President Reagan and Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The Act provided a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally, so long as they paid certain penalties, met certain requirements, such as learning English, with promises of increased border security and interior enforcement of the immigration laws. Sound familiar? President Reagan went so far as to say that, “future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders.” And yet, the illegal immigration issue rages in the year 2015. In many ways grants of amnesty with promises of future enforcement are not unlike budget deals in Washington where tax increases today are linked with promises of spending cuts tomorrow. Somehow, the enforcement actions and spending cuts rarely materialize.
Buried behind Trump’s headline grabbing mass deportation proposal are worthwhile ideas designed to get control of immigration, few of which are new, and some of which will take time. What is new is that the Republican front runner for president is forcefully endorsing them. These ideas include, among others, tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents dedicated to immigration matters, finally building walls on the Mexican border as promised years ago, an entry/exit tracking system that works, and dedicating resources to removing and keeping out the dangerous criminal illegal alien population that preys on American citizens, and illegal immigrants alike.
As with any emergency the first step is to stop the proverbial bleeding. The failure to remove and keep out the estimated 690,000 criminal illegal aliens that wreak havoc on communities through murder, rape, robbery, and other serious crimes is causing real blood in the streets. This was highlighted by the recent killing of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by a criminal illegal alien from Mexico who had been deported five times. A government that cannot keep out known criminals can’t be expected to effectively manage a complex immigration system involving tens of millions of people, including guest workers from around the world.
If supporters of comprehensive immigration reform want to build confidence for other immigration reform steps, they must demonstrate that this lethal subset of illegal immigrants can be effectively controlled through a national strategy involving all levels of government. That means ending sanctuary policies for anyone arrested by state or local authorities and sought by ICE, and steep federal penalties for dangerous criminals that reenter the U.S. after having been deported. Even if illegal immigrants commit crimes at a rate lower than the native population, (a disputed statistic), it is irrelevant given that the illegal immigrant should not be able to commit the crime on U.S. soil in the first place. And the fact that Americans have to deal with native criminals is no excuse to import more crime.
America is a nation of immigrants and controlled immigration is vital to the continued strength and vitality of the United States. However, uncontrolled immigration and the economic, social, and public health and safety costs cannot be denied. Most Americans want the immigration problem solved. That can only happen when America gets control of who comes and who goes. Donald Trump has, at the very least, forced the political establishment to squarely face the issue.