What Exactly Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform?


Comprehensive immigration reform — rarely has a catchphrase been so widely invoked and yet so little defined. Why?

If proponents of so-called reform detailed exactly what they wanted, American voters would never support their self-interested agendas.


Most Americans insist that existing federal immigration laws be enforced. They are adamant that the border be shut tight to all unlawful entry. And they prefer legal immigration to reflect merit, diversity and ethnically blind criteria.

If those protocols were first established, half the public might also consider a pathway for legal residence for millions of foreign nationals already living in the United States without legal authority — but only if they could prove that they were without criminal records, not on public support, and have resided here for some duration.

Unfortunately those classically liberal ideals are not driving Barack Obama’s promise to grant blanket amnesties through executive order after the midterm elections. His planned gambit is an admission that he has neither public support nor congressional sanction nor the force of settled law nor a logical or ethic argument. The effort is instead fueled by an agenda of perpetual big government and a concern to expand future constituencies, allay the anger of Latino activists, and accommodate wealthy business donors.

Obama has all but suspended enforcement of immigration law as a way to force lawmakers to his point of view. He apparently assumes that no immigration law is closer to what he envisions as comprehensive immigration law than is enforcement of current settled law. If the traffic at the border builds, if chaos ensues, then Obama believes that his opponents will eventually concede. I think the message is something like “either amnesty your way through law or my way through no law.” So far such assumptions have backfired, but we must wait until after the midterm elections for the ultimate verdict on his ploy.


Current illegal immigration, of course, is largely synonymous with unchecked entry from Mexico and Latin America. An unspoken amnesty is extended en masse to those from south of the border. Such laxity does not necessarily extend to the Nigerian doctor who overstays his visa or the South Korean architect whose green card has expired. The great unspoken fact of illegal immigration is that it is utterly anti-diversity and ethnically chauvinistic, outsourcing immigration policy to the Latino-Democratic-employer lobby, and dubbing any who object to such racialist criteria as racist.

Illegal immigration divides classes. Amnesties and non-enforcement of existing laws are supported by many affluent employers who want far more access to inexpensive labor. Few worry about the effect of millions of new unskilled immigrants on the employment prospects of less affluent American citizens. Yet millions — many of them minorities — are currently out of work or working only part-time at meager wages. Equally taboo is any honest discussion of the effect of illegal immigration on the American poor and middle classes in schools, emergency rooms, and social services. Few supporters of comprehensive immigration reform ever plan on visiting the Madera ER or driving much on the crowded and frightening 99 freeway between Kingsburg and Visalia. Nor are we supposed to worry that at a time of terrorist threats and the specter of epidemics, we have no idea of who arrives or from where or under what conditions. All that concern is dismissed as xenophobia, racism, and nativism.


The current influx of Central American children will not find sanctuary at the elite prep schools of America. As Senator Sessions recently pointed out, Mark Zuckerberg, the multibillionaire founder of Facebook, is iconic of the paradoxes. Recently while at the home of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, Zuckerberg trashed the immigration policies of the United States — apparently unaware that his hosts in Mexico insist on one of the most uncompromising (and ethnically chauvinist) immigration policies in the world.

Zuckerberg is no useful idiot, because his own business interests would be helped by unfettered access to inexpensive labor. He recently used a few of his millions of dollars to buy four homes to serve as  sort of Maginot Line fortifications to buffer his own Palo Alto estate from the apparently wrong kind of neighbors. But just three miles away in Redwood City, thousands of recent arrivals from Mexico and Latin America are crowded into garages and backyard sheds unable to translate their meager wages to adequate housing.

Note that Zuckerberg is not heading some sort of initiative to build high-density, low-income housing on both sides of the now mostly empty Interstate 280 corridor from Palo Alto to San Francisco. Such affordable projects might alleviate the present landscape of Silicon Valley apartheid, in which Latinos crowd into barrios surrounded by multimillion-dollar communities, venturing out to cut lawns, change diapers, and clean houses before returning to their garages and backyard sheds for the evening. Indeed, there is room along 280 for a new city of some 500,000 immigrants, albeit a fraction of those currently living illegally in California.


The 280 strip has easy access to a number of freeways in and out of the Bay Area, is near reliable Hetch Hetchy-imported water, and could accommodate the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants that Zuckerberg envisions entering California to alleviate our supposedly current shortage of workers.  There are good schools, both private and public, nearby from Woodside and Atherton to Hillsborough to accommodate newly legalized immigrants. It surely makes no sense for Zuckerberg to call for amnesties and lax borders and then not to offer suggestions to his own state on how to accommodate and offer rough parity to the millions who will take him up on his agenda.

California, facing hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities, currently has the highest combination of sales, income, and gasoline taxes in the nation. Why, then, are its infrastructure and schools periodically ranked near dead last in the nation? Its poverty and welfare participation rates are among the nation’s highest. Surely the architects of amnesties and lax borders can explain to millions of Californians how to alleviate those problems, or at least, as they do themselves, how to navigate around them.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform should delineate exactly what they mean and do not mean by their vague rhetoric. They need to be exact in ascertaining who would deserve legal residence, and who by past misbehavior would not. They must bring these proposals to the Congress, have an open debate, seek to pass the necessary legislation and then have it signed by the president.


If they insist on smearing skeptics who are appalled at the present chaos on the border, they should remember that diversity, legality, meritocracy, integration, assimilation and the irrelevance of race once upon a time used to be liberal ideals.

Not anymore.

(Artwork created using a modified Shutterstock.com image.)


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