The flood of Central American children currently crossing our southern border illegally has re-ignited the debate over immigration, allowing the Obama administration to use this humanitarian crisis to advance its political agenda. Specifically, the president now criticizes the House of Representatives for not rubber-stamping his proposal, as advanced by Senate Democrats, for an amnesty bill.
Yes, amnesty. Webster’s New Unabridged Dictionary defines this as “a general pardon of offenses against a government,” which pardon comprises “release from punishment for crimes or offenses.” Proponents may try to camouflage the fact with back taxes, fines and demands for language instruction; but the punishment for entering the country illegally, remaining here after the expiration of a visa, for document or other types of immigration fraud is not only a fine and jail time but deportation, according to Title 8 of the U.S. Code. To offer a “path to citizenship” instead is to release offenders from this punishment. In any debate over immigration, the meaning of words matters.
One should also understand the current situation. Here, blame is bipartisan. Barack Obama might have triggered the tidal wave of children with the 2012 announcement that his administration would move to deferred adjudication for minors who entered the U.S. illegally, and by his efforts to offer legal status to them — the so-called “dreamers” — but the section of immigration law preventing the immediate deportation of illegal immigrant children from “non-contiguous” countries dates back to the George W. Bush presidency.
So in the name of national security, humanitarianism and yes, bipartisanship, it may be time for the Republican Party to embrace the cause of “immigration reform.” Just not the reform progressive Democrats have in mind. Following are a few suggestions.
The southern border should be made far less permeable. This will require expenditure, manpower and the judicious application of force, but since a defining characteristic of any sovereign state is control of national borders, it is an indispensable prerequisite for immigration reform. Illegal entry must be made difficult to the point of impossibility.
An “exit visa” system should be created to allow a record to be kept not only of who enters the country, but how long they remain and when they leave. If the republics of Turkey and Armenia can do this, it’s not beyond our capacity. This would prevent one of the commonest forms of illegal residence: overstaying one’s visa.
“Family reunification” should be removed from immigration policy. There’s no reason an Uzbek bride should, as a matter of law, be able to petition for the entry of second cousin Bulent, in addition to mom, dad and brother Attila. The question for every intending immigrant should be — as it was traditionally — “what do you bring to the table, and why should we be interested?” In the case of unaccompanied minors, those confounded by the humanitarian argument that a child has a right to be with members of the family should remember that Elian Gonzales, whose mother died in an attempt to bring him to freedom, was indeed reunited with family members — in Cuba.
Visas for those with offers of employment in many different fields should be more plentiful and easier to obtain. From agricultural labor to theoretical physics, the market should dictate how many foreign workers should gain entry, in a process as open and painless as possible. These visas should be renewable, and in relevant fields a segue into legal residency should be made easier.
For those in the country illegally, an offer of legal permanent residence. But no “path to citizenship.” There should be no repeating the colossal failure of the Simpson-Mazzoli “reform” effort of the 1980s, nor should the precious gift of U.S. citizenship be a reward for violating the country’s laws. Those hinting they will offer it, in expectation of political reward should be exposed for the cynical and corrupt calculators they are, willing to trade the national interest for another term in office.
Our interests, not those of Guatemala or El Salvador, must prevail in setting U.S. immigration policy. The Honduran ambassador in Washington may think U.S. deportations “violate international treaties,” but there is no human right to immigrate to the United States, however much the socialist paradises south of the Rio Grande may wish it.
So yes — the president’s bluff should be called. Republicans should immediately advance immigration reform that does not include amnesty, explain why the integrity of the law and security of our borders must be maintained, and both parties should begin to act in accordance with the country’s best interests.
What a novelty that would be.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.