Graham, Amnesty and What He Thinks We Are Not Going to Do

Let’s read what Lindsey Graham said recently with reference to illegal immigration and new legislation. He’s going hypothetical here:

Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that I need to go home to South Carolina and say: listen, I know we’re all upset that we have 12-14 million people illegally.  I’m going to have to be practical.  We’re not going to deport or jail 12-14 million people.  A practical solution is not awarding this citizenship on day one, but to allow them to stay here on our terms, learn our language, pay a fine, hold a job, and apply for citizenship through the legal process by getting in the back of the legal line.

That to me is a practical solution. But, I have to be able to say, as part of doing that, we looked at all the incentives that led to the 12-13 million coming, and we changed them.  That we did secure our border, unlike any other time in the past, that we now have laws that make it possible to verify employment; we now have a temporary worker program that will allow people to come here and work on our terms temporarily, and help our employers with labor when they can’t find American labor.  I have to be able to say that, because I think most Americans are willing to clean this mess up.  They’re not willing to perpetuate it.

He would like to say “we are all  upset” that millions of people have broken the law, but “I’m going to have to be practical” we are not going to apply the legal penalties to these people. I think he’s just admitted that it is possible to overwhelm our legal system by having a large enough number of people commit the same crime that the cost of prosecution/further action is prohibitive. For years, some (yeah, no need for specificity here) have advocated that if a few million Americans simply did not pay income taxes, the IRS would be overwhelmed and unable to prosecute all of us. It would seem as though those folks were correct in their thinking–except it would appear that the tactic has been adopted by another group of lawbreakers.

Now, the second part of that paragraph makes pretty good sense–the idea that those who have immigrated illegally should get in line to immigrate legally. However, I believe that the line starts back in their home countries–and not where they currently reside in violation of several duly passed US laws.

When he talks about incentives, in the next paragraph, he is not making much sense to me. The single biggest incentive for illegal immigrants is that life is better here than there (wherever there may be). It could well be that they are attracted to a watered down version of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Not sure how we get rid of that incentive by the actions he advocates. The best way to lessen the incentive for folks to come here from Mexico, for example, would be if that country wasn’t in such shambles, legally and economically. That’s not going to change until Mexico decides that is is responsible for its own problems.

Securing our border is a good start, but we can only secure the border if we ensure that those who are currently here illegally go back to the other side of it. We had a big secure our borders and grant amnesty push in 1986, if I remember correctly–and all we got from it was the amnesty. That served as a lesson to a whole generation of immigrants that when it came to getting into and staying in the United States, it was better to not worry about asking for forgiveness or permission–both of them would be granted if one held on long enough.

Senator Graham wants to be seen as bringing a third way to the table to compete with the “bring them all here” and “send them all home” perspectives. The problem is that his proposal shows a continuing lack of respect for the rule of law. If someone gets his start in business by knocking over a bank, it stands to reason that his business dealings are unlikely to be aboveboard. Likewise, if a person comes to this country illegally (and they are rewarded for doing so) then there is little reason to believe that they will be law-abiding in other matters.