The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Everyone wants to sound reasonable and be the chap who charts the middle course between the Scylla of open borders and the Charybdis of mass deportation. But these are not equivalent dangers. The Charybdis of mass deportation is a mythical monster: It does not exist. It will never exist. No politician is arguing for it, and no U.S. agency is capable of accomplishing it. Indeed, even non-mass deportation does not exist. Go on, try it. Go to your local immigration office and say: Hello, boys. Here I am. I'm an illegal immigrant, got no right to be here, been breaking the law for 20 years, but I've seen the light and I want you to deport me back to Mexico, Yemen, you name it. The immigration guys will say: Leave your name and address and we'll get back to you in a decade or three.
But the Scylla of open borders does exist. It's the reality of the situation. What else would you call it when a population the size of Belgium's (the lowball estimate) or Australia's (the upper end) moves onto your land? And with the connivance of multiple state agencies, not to mention those municipalities that proudly declare themselves to be "sanctuary cities?"
In life's rich tapestry, there are bound to be questions to which there are no good answers -- that Missouri paternity suit is one of them. That's how advocates of the "bipartisan compromise" prefer to talk about immigration: difficult business, no ideal solution, and only extremists would pursue such theoretical perfection as "mass deportation."
OK. But whatever happened to non-mass deportation? Not long after Sept. 11 I chanced to be heading north on I-87 between Plattsburgh and Montreal. At the border crossing from Champlain, N.Y., to Lacolle, Quebec, I noticed that what appeared to be a mini-refugee camp had sprung up. It's not often that you see teeming hordes lining up to get into Canada, so I asked the immigration officer what was going on. He rolled his eyes and did a bit of boy-those-crazy-Yanks stuff and then explained that most of the guys waiting to get in were from Pakistan. In the wake of 9/11, the authorities had rounded up various persons of interest in the New York City area. Whether or not they were terrorists, they'd certainly violated immigration law, overstaying visas and so forth. And as a result, many other illegal immigrants from Muslim countries had concluded it was time to liquidate their assets and break for the border. In other words, the roundup of a relatively small number of persons sent thousands more fleeing to Canada. As that Missouri grandma would say, don't look on it as losing a Pakistani illegal but as gaining a Canadian neighbor.
So the question is: Why is enforcement of U.S. immigration somewhere between minimal and nonexistent? By some estimates, half of all illegals have arrived on George W. Bush's watch -- i.e., they broke into a nation at war with borders supposedly on permanent "orange" alert.
To return to the 72-virgin jackpot, even the looniest jihad-inciting imam understands that human nature responds to incentive, to the tradeoff between obligation and reward. But the immigration bill is all reward and no obligations. The only clause that matters is the first one: the mandatory open-ended probationary legal status the bill will confer the moment it's passed. All the rest -- the enforcement provisions on border agents and security fences that will supposedly "trigger" Z-visas and then green cards -- is nonsense, most of which will never happen. If you're "undocumented," you don't care about whether your Z-visa leads to citizenship 15 years from now: What counts is crossing the line from illegal to legal, which in this bill happens first, happens instantly and happens (to all intents and purposes) irreversibly. All the rest is Beltway kabuki.