Nobody knows exactly the impact of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law (let's hope the ruling on Obamacare is clearer.) The spinners are spinning. The pundits and journalists are declaring "winners" and "losers." In the end, however, all we really know is that our current immigration mess will only get worse. Obama's "Rose Garden Pardon" has added to the confusion as it makes one thing clear: the President has no intention of enforcing the laws he is sworn to enforce. This despite that he had previously gone about boasting of the 1.4 million people his administration has deported. Now he has decided for political reasons not to seek to change a law he does not like, but merely not to enforce it. Imagine if Governor Romney became president and announced he would not prosecute any Wall Street businessmen accused of insider trading or of running Ponzi schemes. Just imagine . . . sigh.
In sum, it's the silly season; it's an election year, and immigration is an issue nobody has wanted to confront for some 40-plus years. Neither the right nor the left has come up with solutions that respect three basic principles of our history: we are nation of immigrants; we are a nation of compassion; we are a nation of laws.
On one extreme end of the debate, we have what I will call the "Rawhide" or the "round'em-up-n-move'em-out" school. Folks, that will not happen. Our society would not, could not and should not tolerate mass raids and arrests of millions of persons; the instantly transmitted images of uniformed, armed, stony-faced bureaucrats breaking into homes and places of work, forcing millions of human beings onto planes, trains, trucks and buses, terrified women and children clutching cheap suitcases, crying and beseeching, would and should tear us apart. At least not since the despicable Andrew Jackson, we are not that kind of country; we should not be that kind of country. That will not happen. Forget about it, and, furthermore, despite the MSNBC-type caricatures, this is not something that most Americans, including conservatives, would support.
Those few who want to "throw them all out," must acknowledge the vital role played by immigrants in our history and in today's economy. We need immigrants; we should welcome immigrants; they are a vital part of what makes America unique. Cuban immigrants, for example, turned Miami into the exciting and vibrant city it has become. Immigrants, mostly Eastern European Jews, built Hollywood and the world-dominating American entertainment industry. And on and on. The examples of immigrant contributions to America's culture, economy, science, and politics are too numerous to list.
On the other extreme end, we have what I will call the "all ye, all ye outs in free" or the "let'em-all-in" school. That cannot be either. We are already the most generous nation on earth when it comes to immigration; we take in over one million legal immigrants every year. No other country comes close to that. We, however, have the right as a sovereign nation to control the number and type of people we allow in; we have the right to defend our borders, laws, institutions, culture, and traditions. We owe no explanations to anybody. Our first loyalty as a nation must be to our citizens, their rights, and their interests. We have a long tradition of defending our sovereignty, and that tradition should not be cavalierly ignored. Those who advocate open immigration have to acknowledge the high levels of crime associated with illegal immigrants and the stress they place on taxpayer funded services, e.g., schools, emergency rooms, prisons, as well as the disregard for our laws and sovereignty that they represent.
There are powerful economic and political interests that lean towards the "let'em-in" philosophy. We, of course, have the agro, food, maintenance, and retail industries that need cheap, unskilled labor. We also have in this corner well-organized interest groups such as teachers' unions, who want more students to keep schools open, and the Democratic Party which, frankly, relies on non-citizens voting in key districts, and needs them to justify massive social programs (illegal aliens, for example, exaggerate the demographic and political importance and poverty level of Hispanics). We also have Hollywood and the mainstream media always eager to put out those Janet Cooke-style heart-tugging stories of noble and abused aliens in America, e.g., "Blind Lesbian Single Mother College Valedictorian War Hero Faces Deportation to a Land She has Never Known."
When dealing with the immigration question we need to look at the horrendous thicket of laws and procedures we have that allegedly govern our policy. They don't, of course. Almost every law and procedure has an escape clause that essentially invalidates the law or procedure. In my days on the visa line, the governing wisdom was, "ninety percent of the time, you can't get in trouble if you issue." Denial of a visa almost always meant Congressional letters, calls, dealing with lawyers, and having to justify yourself to the bureaucrats in the visa office back home as they dealt with outraged Congressmen and relatives. It was that philosophy, of course, exemplified by the late and disastrous Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan, that let in the 9/11 terrorists.
This is not an impossible problem to solve.
The laws on immigration need to be completely rewritten in plain English. There is no point in having laws that you either cannot or will not enforce. There is no point in having these laws if you have a gaping hole in the system that encourages people to violate them. Illegal entry into the United States should not be rewarded. We do not need to make our immigration laws as draconian and inhumane as they are in, say, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Venezuela, but it should be clear that you cannot derive benefits by violating them. Those who play by the rules will be rewarded, those who don't, won't. Not hard to understand.
I remember having to represent the United States at hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on our border fence. I was outraged that I had to sit there and defend something no other country has to defend: the right to protect its borders. Mexico, for example, was not called to task for its horrendous treatment of illegal Central Americans; Argentina did not have to defend its treatment of Bolivians. We need to secure our borders. Period. As noted above, we have that right and do not have to justify ourselves to anybody. To do this will require money. Protecting our long borders does not come cheap. Entering a foreign country via an unofficial entry point, without a visa, is a crime punishable by jail everywhere but in our country. That has to change.
Here I will get in trouble with my libertarian friends. As I have written before, I think we have ceded too much control to cops and prosecutors and regulators of all sorts. We need a burst of freedom in this country that will drastically reduce the laws and regulations on the books; way too much is illegal and that gives ambitious and overly eager cops and prosecutors way too much power. That said, many of the problems posed by illegal aliens here could be solved with a national identification card. There, I said it. Let the abuse begin. Such a card is opposed by many on the right as it would give too much information to the feds about us. I doubt that. The info is already there, and we are constantly asked for id to board a plane, get into a government building, cash a check, make a large purchase, open a bank account, visit our kids at school, etc. We might as well have a uniform id card that clearly lays out that we are legal residents of the United States. Re children brought here as infants, yes, we could make an exception for those brought in say several years before the kick-in of the new id scheme.
The left opposes the national id because it would inhibit or even stop completely voting by illegal aliens, their collecting of a slew of public benefits, and would lead to many if not most illegal aliens packing up and leaving. That would, as noted above, have an adverse impact on the need to have ever more social programs and the highly paid bureaucrats to run them.
None of this is possible with the current crew in the White House.