There was a time when we prided ourselves on being able to do anything. We watched one of our own walk on the moon. We told Khrushchev to get his weapons out of Cuba – amazing by today’s standards – and he did. We built the Panama Canal. For better or worse, we made the first nuclear weapon.
So why can’t the United States deport illegal immigrants by the millions if we want to? Because a handful of self-described conservatives in Congress agreed to join hands with Democrats and proclaim, in the true spirit of bipartisanship gone rotten, that it can’t and shouldn’t be done.
That decision has set policy ever since and has shut the door on alternatives, like the plan being suggested by Donald Trump.
Republicans who refuse to deport
The Gang of 8 included Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and current presidential aspirers Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. They have one thing in common. They decided to agree with Democrats over a bad piece of immigration legislation that never stood a chance.
It’s doubtful that John McCain will ever be allowed to have another go at history, so we won’t bother with him. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are still in the game. Graham, one of the debaters on Fox News’s second string, talked about hope and success fixing our immigration system:
The time is right and the way forward, while difficult is being better defined by the day, and with a reasonable amount of political give and take we will be successful. 1
What did Graham mean by give and take? The “bipartisan framework” the senators endorsed sounded a lot like agreeing with Obama:
Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.2
We don’t have a choice but to spend money to solve two of these problems. Forget about the first one. The only path should be back home.
Presidential wannabe Marco Rubio used Obama’s “immigration system is broken” catchphrase,3 insisting the goal was:
… ending today’s de facto amnesty by dealing with the undocumented immigrant population in a tough but fair way that is directly linked to achieving several security triggers. 4
What does that mean? In amnestyspeak, tough but fair means a path to citizenship.
Is that what conservatives want, or is it what too many Republicans want so they can meet their opponents in the middle and keep the immigration debate going in perpetuity?
Give conservatives what we want: a pathway to deport millions
If Donald Trump caused you to imagine lines of handcuffed, wailing men, women, and children lining up to be thrown back across the Mexican border, STOP. It doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t even have to make the decision to remove illegal immigrants unless we get bored and need something to do. Mitt Romney may not be a player in next year’s election, but his words last time carried wisdom: self-deport. If we make things miserable enough for immigrants without papers, we won’t need to deport en masse. They will leave. While we’re at it we can make things difficult for Mexico, too. How about billing our south of the border neighbor for the Obama advisers who sold us out on immigration?
From the press coverage you would think that Trump is calling for the government to lay waste to sanctuary cities and throw illegal immigrants in prison camps. He isn’t asking for much that we haven’t already talked about. A border wall is an old idea. Stopping federal funding of sanctuary cities comes and goes on Capitol Hill. Visa overstays are an old, poisonous thorn in our side that DHS still can’t seem to get a handle on.
Birthright citizenship? Like Davis-Bacon this one has overstayed its welcome, has nothing to do with the greedy flow over our Southwest border, and needs to end.
No, there is nothing really new in what Trump is saying. What he has to offer is a spine to get the job done.
A Republican with a spine? Who would have thought?
Don’t deport immigrants by the millions. Make their lives unbearable.
There is no reason to round up 11, 12, or however many millions of illegal immigrants are running around, though registering for deferred action does give us access to enough information to get started.* We only have to make their lives a lot more difficult. No sanctuaries, no free education or emergency room care, no working without a permit while the Labor Department prattles on about protecting worker’s rights. If you can’t work, get your kids educated, or be treated for free in the U.S., why would you go to the trouble to come here?
We don’t have to do this all at once. Attrition, attrition, attrition is key. With any luck, we won’t have to worry about the 14th amendment because the only immigrants we will have coming in are the ones with the integrity and determination to be Americans.
*January 19, 2016: Today the Supreme Court agreed to let Obama make his case for his executive immigration orders. If SCOTUS gives him a thumbs down those records might come in handy, after all.