Friday, November 13, 2015

The Illegals

     To read this piece and make sense of it, you must meet some prerequisites. If you don’t, continuing on to the rest of this essay will be a waste of your time.

     The prerequisites are:

  • The comprehension of the nature of a national border;
  • Acceptance that such a border is more than an “imaginary line;”
  • Comprehension of the consequences of nationhood and acceptance of their importance.

     The subject, of course, is the tide of illegal immigration to these United States. The current “refugee crisis” threatening to drown Europe has awakened many previously “on the fence” Americans to the possible consequences for us. However, discussion of the good and sensible things it’s possible for the U.S. to do to avert such a catastrophe are being drowned out by the vast quantity of semantic noise occasioned by the campaign for the presidency.

     Here at Liberty’s Torch, order and reason shall prevail.

     Some time ago, I wrote:

     Here in the West, we have the spectacle of a majority of our Congressmen and Senators, and our president himself, bowing to the demands of our neighbor to the south that we not fortify our mutual border. Legislation from 2006 mandates a border fence, but there's been little funding provided for it and little to no work on it. The disproportionate participation of illegal aliens in felony crimes is widely known, yet there've been scant efforts to impede the movement or employment of illegal aliens already in our land. The infamous immigration reform bill gestating in Congress even offers a cheap amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegals to whom we're already hosts, conciliating them above 290 million born and naturalized citizens to whom our government is supposedly subordinate.

One can suspect corruption and venality, of course. No doubt they play some part in both cases. But the arguments used to rationalize the objectionable postures are almost explicitly supranationalist. It's the people that matter, not the borders. And anyway, think of the kids.

     That summary of our illegal immigration crisis remains pertinent today. So does the refutation of the supranationalists’ premise:

     Borders matter because people matter. Borders are important because there must be a limit on every man's responsibilities for others, and on every nation's, too. Every political system binds its citizens in a web of mutual responsibility. Not for everything, but for the really big things commonly delegated to government: the defense of the realm, the maintenance of order in the streets, a common, generally comprehended legal system, and above all the protection of individuals' rights to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. Israel granted the Palestinians autonomy within their zones, or, as Eric Frank Russell once put it, "the right to go to Hell in their own fashion." Now that they've chosen their course, they should be allowed to follow it to its conclusion, out of respect not only for their right to do so, but the right of Israelis not to be involved in it. Likewise, America did not agree to shelter or employ the whole world. If our borders were better secured, not only would our streets be safer, but Mexicans' interest in reforming their own polity would be greatly increased.

     That, in a nutshell, is the argument against open borders. It flows from the collectivizing nature of a government – any government. I regard it as conclusive and irrefutable. (Indeed, it’s so strong that it refutes the entire welfare state, but that’s a subject for a separate tirade.) Anarchists may disagree, but history tells us that mass movements of population have been vigorously opposed even in the absence of government. That’s testimony to the strength of both the premise and the cultural cohesion that gives rise to nations in the first place.

     The good sense of the above has been ignored for decades, the overt rationale being some flavor of ersatz humanitarianism. But no humanitarian impulse can trump the obligation to respect the rights of others. Americans’ rights to the preservation of our nation, its finances, its language, its culture, and its social norms stand against all pseudo-humanitarian arguments.

     Today, an estimated 12 million illegal aliens reside within America’s borders. The influx constitutes the principal offensive in an undeclared war against American sovereignty. How to repel this quiet invasion has been a recurring subject in American politics, mainly among conservatives. Democrats and liberals disagree. Some are moved by the false humanitarianism mentioned above, while others are interested solely in accretions to their voting bloc. Both camps fail to appreciate the secondary consequences of their position.

     It’s time to ask the important questions:

  1. Is the expulsion of the majority of illegal aliens possible?
  2. If so, how might it be done?
  3. What would it cost, in blood, treasure, and infringed rights?
  4. Would there be undesirable secondary consequences to doing so?

     Let’s address those questions in numerical order.

     1. Is the expulsion of the majority of illegal aliens possible?

     Yes. Illegal aliens are here for a reason: they believe themselves to be better off in the U.S. than they were in their previous countries of residence. The principal obstacle to removing them is identifying them. However, it’s quite possible to get them to identify themselves – and to deport themselves.

     2. How might it be done?

     There are several elements to the strategy:

  1. Recognition of our a national identification system;
  2. Enforcement of that system by states, counties, and municipalities;
  3. Imposition of criminal penalties upon employers for concealing illegal aliens;

     You might be surprised to learn that we do have a national identification system, but nevertheless it is so. You were almost certainly enrolled in it. It’s called Social Security.

     When an infant born in the U.S. reaches four years of age, his parents are required by law to acquire a Social Security number for him. This requires a birth certificate. The certificate and the SS number are linked in the Social Security databases. When an immigrant is granted residence status – temporary or permanent – he is assigned an SS number for the duration of his American residency. Thus, anyone over the age of four who is legally in this country will have an SS number, and that number can be used to determine whether he is legally in the U.S.

     Current law does not oblige law enforcement to demand an SS number from a suspected lawbreaker. Current law, however, does require employers to do so, along with some evidence of legal residency in the U.S. Revision of the former condition and strict enforcement of the latter are paramount. Moreover, any individual, public or private, found to be complicit in evading the requirement must be legally subject to the same penalty as an illegal alien once identified: the cancellation of his legal residency and his summary deportation. Any corporate entity found complicit must be compelled to dissolve, its assets to be liquidated and distributed to its stockholders just as if it had collapsed into bankruptcy.

     The toughest aspect of the SS-identification provision lies in how to penalize states, counties, and municipalities that refuse to cooperate. Forfeiture of all funds from Washington comes to mind, but there are other possibilities that deserve examination, including the arrest and very public trial of governors, mayors, and county executives on federal charges of conspiring to violate the immigration laws. If the sentiment for halting the illegal tides is as strong as it appears, those would be very popular prosecutions.

     With those changes and enforcement thereof, many illegal aliens could be swiftly identified and expelled. Moreover, a great part of the incentive that drives illegal immigration would disappear. Over time, as illegals were discovered and deported, the flood of new illegals would diminish. However, the erection of an Israeli-style security fence along the southern border would remain highly desirable.

     3. What would it cost in blood, treasure, and infringed rights?

     Beyond all doubt there would be costs in blood, though they’re difficult to estimate a priori. Law enforcement of any sort always risks violence, and violence sometimes eventuates in deaths. But that’s the price of enforcing any law. We cannot have a law about legal versus illegal immigration without accepting that there will be a price to pay.

     The dollar cost at the federal level would arise from two sources. First, it would cost to enforce the SS-identification requirement upon the states, counties, and municipalities. There’s no evading the need for this step, nor can we evade the price thereof. Some degree of federal oversight of state and local law enforcement would be required...and nothing the federal government does comes cheaply. My estimate is that it would add $10 billion to $20 billion to the annual operating costs of the Department of Justice. Whether that cost could be offset by savings in some other area is a question for another time. Whether there would be a significant cost increment to the states, etc. is more difficult to determine.

     Second, it would cost, perhaps heavily, to erect the security fence required to attenuate the flow of illegal entrants over the southern border, and of course to “man” that fence with the staff required to maintain it and ensure that the most determined illegals can’t do it great harm. I estimate a $55 billion cost for the erection of the fence, followed by $5 billion to $10 billion per year in increased staffing to make it more than cosmetic.

     Whether there would be a cost in infringed rights is more problematic. An individual who has been detained by law enforcement for a good probable cause is already under a legal obligation to identify himself. However, at this time he need not give the police his SS number. Adding that to the obligation doesn’t strike me as a significant infringement of his rights, though no doubt some will disagree.

     4. Would there be undesirable secondary consequences to doing so?

     Of course. No action is without side effects. Every action, no matter of what sort or to what purpose, creates at least one undesired consequence. Some of them are even foreseeable.

     First, the insertion of increased federal oversight of local law enforcement carries with it the potential use of federal coercion to “mold” local enforcement according to the whims of the Justice Department, rather than to the laws and preferences of the locality.

     Second, governmental corruption is impossible to eradicate, and its magnitude varies roughly as the square of the size of government. Therefore, to expand the federal government implicitly accepts an increased degree of corruption, though the specific qualities of that corruption are difficult to predict.

     Third, changes in the law and its enforcement are always destabilizing to some degree. The perturbations would not be confined to governments. There would be costs to individuals, families, and some companies for the enhanced enforcement of our immigration laws. Some of those costs would be transitional, and therefore transient; others might prove long-lasting. However, from this vantage point, none of those costs would be unbearable, and none would involve the abridgement of some recognized right.

     If you agree with me that the thing is doable, the remaining questions are:

  1. At what cost level do the benefits outweigh the costs?
  2. How could we confine the costs to that level?

     Those are questions each voter must answer for himself, when he assesses the positions of candidates for federal office. Surely I can’t answer them for anyone else. The above essay is merely an attempt to dispute those who claim that the undertaking is beyond the abilities of the nation that won World Wars I and II, and has led the world in every category of human endeavor for more than a century.

     Let’s talk it over.


syd B. said...

Would this be a viable solution? If the government announced that they were setting up a process to accelerate citizenship applications for legal entry into the US, but only for those who voluntarily return to Mexico, with the alternative being that anyone caught in the country illegally thereafter (appropriate grace period), would be forever excluded from applying, I think you would see that a majority of otherwise law abiding illegals would respond. The drug dealers, gang members, rapists and thugs might be less enthusiastic.

Francis W. Porretto said...

I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, Syd, but it would involve some extra complexities, and a lot of people would complain that it constitutes a reward for lawbreaking. I'll have to think about it for a while.

Anonymous said...

Francis, I like your thoughts. the BIG hurdle to overcome would be the Left in its entirety, which is a major undertaking. Come to think of it, a large majority on the right as well. Nonetheless, you have a real good start with what you penned. KUDOS

Longbow said...

I keep hearing the number 10, 11, or 12 million. Those are deliberately downplayed numbers. It is in reality more like 20 to 30 million. Wake up America!

Never mind, you don't want to wake up. You want your Socialist Security and your Medicare.

Paul Bonneau said...

The other "good" thing about borders is that they allow socialism and welfare to continue, rather than immediately falling flat. And they are a distraction from the base cause of harmful, excessive immigration, that very same socialism and welfare. Who is going to bother to shut welfare down, when the problem can be "solved" by big fences and government work permits for everyone and checkpoints on the highways and lots and lots of government enforcers?

But hey, at least we can complain about Mexicans breaking the law. After all, everybody should be nice obedient little peons, right? Get ready to turn in your guns when the rulers tell us to...

Gon2Fish said...

In your costs discussion you failed to mention the costs of not enforcing the borders. By not enforcing the borders and paying out untold benefits to the squatters; in addition to, the impact on wage depression.

Also weigh in to those offenders the companies that abuse the H-1B, L, and other visa formats.

George W Short said...

As a Minuteman I have heard this 12 million number for 13 years now . Border Patrol has said over and over again " We only catch one in six illegals at any one time " ! So that 12 number is well over that , and you include the ' anchor babies ' you'd be around 20 mil or so . Hell we have 12 million here in CA . This is a major problem here beccaue we are going through a ' culture change ' ! If you want to come to CA you best better speak Mexican . No more of the " Blonde , Blue=eyed , Big=boobed sufer white girl " G

Mark in Minnesota said...

I don't see the need for a big, messy, Operation Wetback part II. I think Romney was correct when he said that the illegals would self-deport if we just enforced the current laws vis-a-vis the employers of the illegals. Some high-profile public arrests (using handcuffs) of corporate officers and/or HR people all across the U.S. during a 'sweep week' could be all it would take to send the message to every other employer of illegals that this practice is over. White Collar people especially don't like jail.

No job for Juan and Maria means no reason for them to stay, which means all the buses heading south would be full. And all by their own impetus. This sounds terribly heartless to some, but is actually what is truly Just in the big-picture. When I occasionally have a personal interaction with an obvious illegal, I have nothing but feelings of kindness and compassion for them because of their plight. But to extrapolate those feelings into a national policy? No way.

Since I'm on a roll, one more thing as an interesting aside: and this is per Ann Coulter's latest column. During Eisenhower's Operation Wetback there were 10 persons who self-deported for every 1 who was rounded up.

KG said...

No border fence needed. Just declare a ten mile deep free-fire zone and patrol it with drones and armed choppers, with orders to shoot on sight.
The problem of illegal immigration is only a problem because of the lack of will to do what is necessary.