When it comes to border security, it all boils down to one basic question: Are we going to make the system work, or are we going to have open borders?
We can’t have a credible immigration system and secure borders without enforcing immigration laws. There isn’t really a middle ground here. There is no muddling through.
How we enforce the law is going to tip us one way or the other. By one estimate, more than 150 million would come here if they could. That is about half the current U.S. population. Once the gates of global migration are open, there is little evidence they stop unless the gates are put back or everybody has moved.
You can’t have a credible immigration system with massive amnesties, as David Addington, one of my former colleagues, has explained so well. He was absolutely right that the 1986 law set a bad precedent. After the amnesty was passed, the unlawfully present population dramatically rose.
The drafters of the law, of course, explicitly promised the opposite would happen. Oops. Fast forward a few years, and new amnesties are urged. It’s a disturbing familiar pattern.
So for me, rule one is absolutely no amnesty. And yes, certain people should be deported.
For example, there is a significant population in this country of illegal aliens who have committed felony crimes from rape to child molestation to murder. They should leave.
There are more than 1.7 million people here with valid deportation orders issued by a judge. They should leave.
And yes, I think we should deport people just to show that the law in the U.S. is really enforced. This can and should be done.
Alternatives to deportation are just bait-and-switch “solutions” that promise to solve a problem and then fail to do so. We need responsible strategies for dealing with those unlawfully present in the U.S.
There’s more, though. Just enforcing the law is not enough. Legal immigration reform has to be addressed. The idea that we need illegal immigrants to power the U.S. workforce is incorrect. We don’t — if we have a legal immigration system that works.
And, of course, the border has to be secured along with other critical tasks — all parts of a plan to fix our broken southern border and messed-up immigration system. That’s why I worked with a brilliant team of analysts at Heritage to come up with a suitable, feasible and acceptable plan that puts partisanship aside and looks at real solutions.
And while we do policy and not politics, we recognize that it will take political will get this agenda done. We think that’s possible.
In the end, Americans will decide — and then we either will or won’t have open borders. That is something worth debating.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and the E. W. Richardson Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.