By Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.
Arizona Sen. John McCain had little success recently while trying to sell his constituents on his plan for “comprehensive immigration reform.” His town-hall meetings were shot through with expressions of indignation from Arizonans who have been forced to endure the ravages of illegal immigration for decades on end.
Of course, the immigration issue is much larger than McCain – or any single person. But the plan McCain, Marco Rubio and “the Gang of Eight” are proposing is bad for several reasons.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it presupposes that we even need a plan. The champions of so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” speak as if we have no laws regarding immigration, that it is the absence of laws covering this topic that accounts for our current mess. Or else they speak as if the mess is due to the laws that we do have on the books, laws that are somehow or in some way defective.
Both propositions are wildly false. And with the slightest bit of effort, both can easily be proved to be false.
We have always had laws governing immigration. Moreover, for the most part, these laws have been perfectly sensible.
Our problems with immigration stem not from the laws, but from the failure of our government to enforce these laws. This is the second strike against the Rubio/McCain immigration plan – or any such new plan.
Since it is enforcement – or, more accurately, the lack of enforcement – of our old immigration laws that has led us to our present crisis, how could any remotely thoughtful person be expected to believe that what we need now is new laws on top of the old laws? After all, if the government either could not or would not enforce what laws we’ve had up to this juncture, then why on Earth would we think that they will now be able and willing to enforce those laws in addition to a litany of new ones?
We have even less reason to think this once we grasp just how specific and detailed the new reforms are. If it is difficult for the government to enforce rules that aren’t all that specific and complex, it promises to be all but impossible for it to enforce rules that are that much more specific and complex.
There isn’t one of us in our personal lives who would accept the sort of reasoning that the government is busy peddling now when it comes to immigration. If one’s spouse has repeatedly failed to perform the most basic duties of marriage – fidelity, say – one wouldn’t take him at his word when, for the umpteenth time, he vows not only never again to act unfaithfully, but not even to look, no, not even to think, of other women. If an employee has repeatedly failed to show up to work, or show up on time, no employer would trust him when, now, when he was about to be fired, he pledged to come to work even on his days off, show up early and work overtime.
To paraphrase Jesus, those who aren’t responsible with little tasks can’t be entrusted with the care of larger tasks.
Another strike against “comprehensive immigration reform” is that it undermines the very basis of American society: the rule of law. When we say that America is a nation, not of men, but of laws, what we are saying is that law is the glue that binds Americans (as Americans) together. However, in granting amnesty to millions of immigrants who have violated our laws, we strike at the very core of who we are as a people.
But, amnesty supporters will cry, these immigrants are simply searching for a better way of life. Even if true, this is totally irrelevant. There is no shortage of sob stories – even true sob stories – that criminals of various sorts supply to excuse their crimes. Those who pillage, no less than those who ignore a nation’s borders and the host of other laws that they inevitably break once they do so, are motivated by dreams of a better, easier life.
Finally, amnesty promises to give rise to the ruination of the Republican Party. In 1986, Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to some 3 million mostly illegal Hispanic immigrants. Two years before this he won a larger percentage of the Hispanic vote than George H.W. Bush received two years afterwards. In 2008, tireless champion of amnesty John McCain won an even smaller portion of the Hispanic vote than did Bush the senior. And in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics voted for Barack Obama, while a paltry 27 percent went for Mitt Romney.
Whether we call it “comprehensive immigration reform” or amnesty, a loser by any other name is still a loser.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D., teaches philosophy at several colleges and universities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His work has appeared at American Thinker, The New American, Townhall.com, Modern Age, as well as in other scholarly and popular publications. He blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture.