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April 7, 2006
Krauthammer Gets The Sequence Correct

The ever-reliable Charles Krauthammer gets to the heart of the Senate abdication on national security yesterday in his new column titled "First A Wall -- Then Amnesty". Krauthammer correctly identifies border security as the element of immigration most in need of reform and its rightful position as the highest legislative priority of the issue:

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. ...

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.

Without a fence that actually stops most illegals from crossing the border, any reform effort is rendered moot. It does no good to create new bureaucracies to handle a flood of amnesty applications when the course of least resistance remains wide open to those who cross the border to make a few bucks. All of the multi-track legalization and citizenship paths can get tossed right out the window, as it will only benefit those who have already broken the law to be here. It does nothing to prevent even more from following in their footsteps and remaining "in the shadows", as George Bush put it. This compromise provides nothing that didn't get tried in 1986, when we legalized three million border jumpers with the promise that we would also provide better enforcement at the border.

Twenty years later, we have the same promises from a new crop of politicians, which proves that nothing really changes.

Oh, of course, they promise that tough new regulations will disincentivize employers from hiring any new illegals in the future. The Senate says they will crack down with "draconian" laws on businesses caught with illegals on the payroll. Well, those regulations exist now, and the government lacks the will to enforce them. Based on their lack of will in strengthening the border now, it doesn't appear that they will garner any more testicular fortitude than they have in the past. Besides, border enforcement is the job of the federal government, one of the few jobs that the Constitution actually grants to DC. Why should we penalize employers for not doing a job that frightens the US Senate?

This compromise does nothing to increase the security of our borders; in fact, it only encourages more people to cross and to garner a fake paper trail that could land them on the fast track to citizenship. Krauthammer says it perfectly -- we cannot begin to have credibility on immigration reform until we show that we are willing to secure our borders. Until then, the illegals laugh us off, and for good reason.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 7, 2006 7:00 AM

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