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Immigration Reform Will Fail Without Deportation

If we only build a wall, we solve only half the problem
 Listen to streaming audio of this column | MP3

The current media consensus on immigration reform is that we probably have to build a wall along our southern border to stop the flood of illegal aliens pouring into our country, but we cannot deport any significant portion of the 11 million illegal aliens who have already forced themselves onto our population.

This, of course, is a huge victory for those that have fought for years to stop the unregulated flow of immigration criminals into America. The previous media consensus was that the whole world should be able to cross our borders at will and that we should give them all a thank you note and a box of doughnuts just for showing up. To do any less would be racist.

We should build a wall. Physical barriers are proven “force multipliers” for guarding borders and controlling access, which is why the White House and Capitol Hill are surrounded by barriers. They weren’t just put there to stop Patrick Kennedy’s car, after all. When security matters to Congress — such as when it is their security at stake and not just yours — they build walls and gates and fences and towers.

But a wall on our border, by itself, will fail for two reasons.

One reason is simple and incontrovertible: around 40% of the illegal aliens in America — 4.5 million immigration criminals — never had to sneak across any border. We let them in. They came legally on “temporary” visas, claiming to be tourists or students or businessmen who would enter America for just a short time to go to Disneyland or flight school or a big conference and would then leave. But they never left. They never intended to; they lied to get in and then just disappeared.

And most of them arrived in cities far from any border: New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Honolulu and the like — via airports. We can easily build a wall high enough to keep out the border flood, but we can never build one high enough to keep out the rain — the rain of cheats and liars that arrive daily at our airports.

There is only one way known to address this problem. When people overstay their visas, we have to find them and deport them. It’s that simple. And it is going to take a large and permanent deportation apparatus to be able to address visa fraud. In 2003 alone, nearly 28 million visitors were allowed into the United States on temporary visas — and this number does not include most legal visitors from Mexico and Canada, who are allowed in without visas. Most visa-holding visitors are honest, but around 300,000 each year are liars who intend to skip the trip to the Grand Canyon and just move to Detroit or Dallas and find a job in the underground economy — or worse.

Theoretically, identifying such visa scammers should be easy. We know who comes in and we know when their visas expire. But, believe it or not, we have no system to match up those entering on a visa to those leaving on a visa. All we know is that a bunch of people come in and a smaller bunch leaves each year. This is by design.

Many immigration reform organizations have tried for years to get our government to match up arrivals and departures, so that we can quickly issue arrest warrants for those who overstay their visas. But the immigration enforcement bureaucracies have said that they really don’t want to, since it might take them away from the stellar job they are doing fighting illegal immigration at the borders. And this position has been justified by the usual assortment of business interests, ethnic-solidarity groups, and well-lubricated congressmen.

So today, 4.5 years after a group of 19 visa-scammers (some of whom had openly overstayed their visas) massacred 3000 civilians on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, we still have no good system to track those who overstay their visas, and no practical system to deport those we do find by sheer chance.

To address the problem of visa fraud alone, we must be willing to deport at least 300,000 people per year from our interior.

The second reason that we must make an increased commitment to deport realistic numbers of illegal aliens each year is moral. Our current reluctance to deport those who steal residency is self-defeating. It would be like making car theft illegal, but never requiring that stolen cars be returned. Why not come to America this way? All you have to gain is amnesty.

Congress and President Bush may call the amnesty a “guest worker program” or “earned legalization” and blather on about small fines and back taxes (which would be based on whatever income the immigration criminals decide to confess), but it doesn’t change the fact that if we let them stay, they have received the only part of amnesty that matters. Anything short of deportation is amnesty. And that will be an absolute disaster.

Our current illegal immigration fiasco is a direct result of the 1986 amnesty of three million immigration criminals. That one act sent out a message to all the world: get here — sneak in, lie your way in, or break in — but just get here, and we will let you stay. The result has been as predictable as it has been costly. The 1986 amnesty did not solve our illegal immigration problem. It made it four times worse. Even today, just the talk of a second amnesty has caused a huge increase in illegal immigration — as people hear the message loud and clear: we’re not serious about our laws, so why should you be?

We must undo that damage. We must get serious about deporting those who are not here legally. No other action will send the correct message. And no other action will deter other aspiring illegal aliens from trying to sneak in.

When illegal aliens are deported from the interior United States in even moderate numbers — and they begin returning to their cities and villages throughout the world to tell their self-inflicted sob stories — a new message will go out with them: we’re serious now. Wait your turn, fill out your applications, undergo your background checks and behave — because we are not going to tolerate this crap anymore.

Actions speak louder than walls, and to be honest, I believe that a lot of politicians are suddenly so gung-ho about a wall because it allows them to avoid the tough questions of deportation and visa enforcement for several more years while the wall is being built.

Border enforcement without the willingness and capability to deport those illegal aliens that do make it through (or over) the border is doomed to failure. We’ve all played that game before. As children we called it “Red Rover.” We would all link arms into our best little barrier and dare someone to find a weak point and break through. And someone always would, because that is how you win the game.

Red Rover, Red Rover, send the whole world right over. That’s some security plan.

Congress should build the wall, but then back it up with deportation — unless they’re just playing a game.

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Written By

Mr. Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in Cambridge, Mass., is a regular contributor to HUMAN EVENTS. His column generally appears on Tuesdays. Archives and additional material can be found at www.macjohnson.com.

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