Sometimes simple questions spur thinking. Unasked questions spur more. That is happening in the area of illegal immigration. The crisis is upon us. It is migrating from border to interior, affecting American lives, liberties, health, safety, housing, taxes, and our identity as a nation. Is it not time to think harder?
Somewhere, the immigration debate has gotten far off course. After last week’s presidential debates, every Democratic candidate appears ready to admit illegal entrants without historic restrictions; harbor them in sanctuary cities; pay their health care with tax dollars (federal and state); permit displacement of lower income Americans from affordable housing; and tolerate growing homelessness created by unmitigated mass economic migration. None of this fits American history, rule of law or sovereignty.
First, candidates and mainstream media consciously omit, diminish or ignore a basic distinction in US law – between legal immigration, which is permitted at different levels, based on country of origin and individual, and patently illegal immigration. The distinction is important, yet consciously blurred. That should stop. That must stop – now.
This fundamental distinction – about which no one wants to speak – is key to resolving the larger debate. From enforcement of US visa laws to naturalization and citizenship, if the distinction between legal and illegal is not acknowledged, limits of entry upheld under law, then for all intents and purposes – US immigration laws do not exist.
Put differently, the Democratic presidential candidates, beyond pushing mass government control, higher taxes, socialized medicine, federally defined and paid higher education, and shutting down fossil fuel production, are promoting lawlessness in the area of immigration.
Let’s be specific. Today, in the United States, we have laws permitting presence in the United States under differing circumstances. We have laws that distinguish between legal and illegal presence, between employer sponsored visas (H1B), independent work visas (EB-1), investor visas (EB-5), PhD visas (EB-2), presence by birth to foreign parents, presence by green-card lottery, and upon legal residence for five years, application for citizenship. These are laws, meant to be enforced.
By opening the flood gates at our southern border to lawless entry, Democrats not only render meaningless our asylum laws (i.e. requiring proof of a specific, objective “well-founded fear of persecution” to the individual by the country of origin’s government), and mock refugee laws, but we upend the entire legal framework for visas, residency, legal employment and potential citizenship.
Here is the rub: Democrats are effectively saying – “Laws do not matter, just come and we will hide you, house you, pay for your health care, shield you from federal law enforcement, permit your crimes to go unreported, and not deport you.” Under such circumstances, exactly where is respect for rule of law? Nowhere, as these Democratic candidates are effectively throwing out US law.
Second, think for a moment about what a “nation” is. Without borders, a plot of land and people have no claim to nationhood. As early Americans knew, immigration would eventually rise and require restriction – and the restrictions would require enforcement, to preserve our sovereignty.
As New York statesman Gouverneur Morris argued at the Constitutional Convention, “every society from a great nation down to a club has the right of declaring the conditions on which new members should be admitted.” Incidentally, he wrote the Preamble to the Constitution, was signatory to the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution.
His point is plain – then, and now. While our Constitution grants the power to Congress “to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization,” restrictions on immigration are required for nationhood. As one constitutional scholar noted: “The people have delegated to Congress the power to fix the terms under which America will consent to an immigrant become a member of the American political community,” who, when and how. This implies legal limits, and it confers no right of entry.
American citizens elect leaders to make and enforce laws, pursuant to the Constitution. These laws only matter – and civil society only truly exists – if they are enforced. The federal government determines who will be admitted, when and under what conditions. Immigrants cannot – under any circumstances – legally impose themselves on our political community, particularly in contravention of express laws.
Yet here come these giddy, give-away-the-nation candidates, indifferent to history, law and logic, apparently untroubled by rising social, political, economic and moral costs imposed by their de facto “open borders” policy, an invitation to illegals to violate US law. To a one, these Democratic candidates are complicit in advancing lawlessness, knowingly or recklessly upending rule of law.
How can any of them seriously aspire to taking an oath of office to be President of the United States, solemnly swearing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and federal laws, while knowingly advocating lawlessness? Who would trust any of them to protect us?
One can debate animating motives – whether the aim is to empower a growing mass of illegal aliens to vote for Democrats who buy votes with public money, or another hard-to-discern motive – but the bigger question is how any candidate can advocate lawlessness, while seeking the presidency.
To put a point on it: Someone – and in 17 months it will be the voters – need to hold these bold advocates of lawless immigration accountable. Laws, borders, sovereignty and enforcement either matter, or they do not. Most Americans believe they do, and that this is what civil society is about.
There are plenty of other strange legal, political, and economic theories being advocated, but if we cannot agree laws matter, that rule of law counts, that enforcing federal immigration laws is central to our existence as a nation, who are we?
More precisely, who are these people who clamor to lead – if they do not believe in our laws, liberties, limits and protecting lives of American citizens? Simple questions often produce sobering answers.