COMMENTARY

IMMIGRATION

Charles Krauthammer | "Build the Wall" | Prager U. | June 5, 2017 | 5 mins

First a Wall — Then Amnesty

by Charles Krauthammer

The Washington Post. Friday, April 7, 2006

Every sensible immigration policy has two objectives: (1) to regain control of our borders so that it is we who decide who enters and (2) to find a way to normalize and legalize the situation of the 11 million illegals among us.

Start with the second. No one of good will wants to see these 11 million suffer. But the obvious problem is that legalization creates an enormous incentive for new illegals to come.

We say, of course, that this will be the very last, very final, never-again, we're-not-kidding-this-time amnesty. The problem is that we say exactly the same thing with every new reform. And everyone knows it's phony.

What do you think was said in 1986 when we passed the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform? It turned into the largest legalization program in American history -- nearly 3 million people got permanent residency. And we are now back at it again with 11 million more illegals in our midst.

How can it be otherwise? We already have a river of people coming every day knowing they're going to be illegal and perhaps even exploited. They come nonetheless. The newest amnesty -- the "earned legalization" being dangled in front of them by proposed Senate legislation -- can only increase the flow.

Those who think employer sanctions will control immigration are dreaming. Employer sanctions were the heart of Simpson-Mazzoli. They are not only useless; they are pernicious. They turn employers into enforcers of border control. That is the job of government, not landscapers.

The irony of this whole debate, which is bitterly splitting the country along partisan, geographic and ethnic lines, is that there is a silver bullet that would not just solve the problem but also create a national consensus behind it.

My proposition is this: A vast number of Americans who oppose legalization and fear new waves of immigration would change their minds if we could radically reduce new -- i.e., future -- illegal immigration.

Forget employer sanctions. Build a barrier. It is simply ridiculous to say it cannot be done. If one fence won't do it, then build a second 100 yards behind it. And then build a road for patrols in between. Put in cameras. Put in sensors. Put out lots of patrols.

Can't be done? Israel's border fence has been extraordinarily successful in keeping out potential infiltrators who are far more determined than mere immigrants. Nor have very many North Koreans crossed into South Korea in the past 50 years.

Of course it will be ugly. So are the concrete barriers to keep truck bombs from driving into the White House. But sometimes necessity trumps aesthetics. And don't tell me that this is our Berlin Wall. When you build a wall to keep people in, that's a prison. When you build a wall to keep people out, that's an expression of sovereignty. The fence around your house is a perfectly legitimate expression of your desire to control who comes into your house to eat, sleep and use the facilities. It imprisons no one.

Of course, no barrier will be foolproof. But it doesn't have to be. It simply has to reduce the river of illegals to a manageable trickle. Once we can do that, everything becomes possible -- most especially, humanizing the situation of our 11 million illegals.

If the government can demonstrate that it can control future immigration, there will be infinitely less resistance to dealing generously with the residual population of past immigration. And, as Mickey Kaus and others have suggested, that may require that the two provisions be sequenced. First, radical border control by physical means. Then, shortly thereafter, radical legalization of those already here. To achieve national consensus on legalization, we will need a short lag time between the two provisions, perhaps a year or two, to demonstrate to the skeptics that the current wave of illegals is indeed the last.

This is no time for mushy compromise. A solution requires two acts of national will: the ugly act of putting up a fence and the supremely generous act of absorbing as ultimately full citizens those who broke our laws to come to America.

This is not a compromise meant to appease both sides without achieving anything. It is not some piece of hybrid legislation that arbitrarily divides illegals into those with five-year-old "roots" in America and those without, or some such mischief-making nonsense.

This is full amnesty (earned with back taxes and learning English and the like) with full border control. If we do it right, not only will we solve the problem, we will get it done as one nation.


 

The only immigration solution

by Charles Krauthammer

The Washington Post. Friday, September 2, 2016

The one great service of Donald Trump’s extended peregrinations on immigration policy is to have demonstrated how, in the end, there’s only one place to go.

 

You can rail for a year about the squishy soft, weak-kneed and stupid politicians who have opened our borders to the wretched refuse of Mexico. You can promise to round them up — the refuse, that is, not the politicians (they’re next) — and deport them. And that may win you a plurality of Republican primary votes.

 

But eventually you have to let it go. For all his incendiary language and clanging contradictions, Trump did exactly that in Phoenix on Wednesday. His “deportation task force” will be hunting . . . criminal aliens. Isn’t that the enforcement priority of President Obama, heretofore excoriated as the ultimate immigration patsy?

 

And what happens to the noncriminal illegal immigrants? On that, Trump punted. Their “appropriate disposition” will be considered “in several years when we have . . . ended illegal immigration for good.” Everyone knows what that means: One way or another, they will be allowed to stay.

 

Trump’s retreat points the way to the only serious solution: enforcement plus legalization. The required enforcement measures are well known — from a national E-Verify system that makes it just about impossible to work if you are here illegally, to intensified border patrol and high-tech tracking.

The one provision that, thanks to Trump, gets the most attention is a border wall. It’s hard to understand the opposition. It’s the most venerable and reliable way to keep people out. The triple fence outside San Diego led to a 90 percent reduction in infiltration. Israel’s border fence with the West Bank has produced a similar decline in terror attacks into Israel.

 

The main objection is symbolic. Walls, we are told, denote prisons. But only if they are built to keep people in, not if they are for keeping outsiders out. City walls, going back to Jericho, are there for protection. Even holier-than-thou Europeans have conceded the point as one country after another — Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Austria, Greece, Spain, why even Norway — has started building border fences to stem the tide of Middle Eastern refugees.

 

The other part of the immigration bargain is legalization. What do you do with the 11 million already here? In theory, you could do nothing. The problem ultimately solves itself as the generation of the desert — those who crossed the border originally — is eventually replaced by its American-born children who are automatically legal and landed.

 

But formal legalization is a political necessity. It gets buy-in from Democrats who for whatever reason — self-styled humanitarianism or bare-knuckled partisanship — have no interest in real border enforcement. Legalization is the quid pro quo. If they want to bring the immigrants “out of the shadows,” they must endorse serious enforcement.

 

Such a grand bargain could and would command a vast national consensus. The American public will accept today’s illegal immigrants if it is convinced that this will be the last such cohort.

 

This was the premise of the 1986 Reagan amnesty. It legalized almost 3 million immigrants. Because it never enforced the border, however, three has become 11.

 

And that’s why the Gang of Eight failed. They too got the sequencing wrong. The left insisted on legalization first. The Gang’s Republicans ultimately acquiesced because they figured, correctly, this was the best deal they could get in an era of Democratic control.

 

The problem is that legalization is essentially irreversible and would have gone into effect on Day One. Enforcement was a mere promise.

 

Hence the emerging Republican consensus, now that Trump has abandoned mass deportation: a heavy and detailed concentration on enforcement, leaving the question of what happens to those already here either unspoken (Trump on Wednesday) or to be treated case by case (Trump last week).

 

The Trump detour into — and retreat from — mass deportation has proved salutary. Even the blustering tough guy had to dismiss it with “we’re not looking to hurt people.”

 

The ultimate national consensus, however, lies one step farther down the road. Why leave legalization for some future discussion? Get it done. Once the river of illegal immigration has been demonstrably and securely reduced to a trickle, the country will readily exercise its natural magnanimity and legalize.

 

So why not agree now? Say it and sign it. To get, you have to give. That’s the art of the deal, is it not?

 


 

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