September 21, 2010
When my Mexican immigrant wife, Ines, and I visited her family in Mexico in 2000, one of my brothers-in-law, Alejandro, and his family, decided that because my wife is a naturalized U.S. citizen she should petition for their swift legal immigration to the U.S.
We agreed to fill out the necessary paperwork to start the petition process for Alejandro (and for three of Ines' other siblings) once we returned to Los Angeles where we lived at the time. Alejandro could later legally petition for his family.
Two months after our return to Los Angeles, Ines was shocked to receive a telephone call from Alejandro in Oxnard, California. He was working there as an ice cream vendor. Although Ines had indeed started the process for Alejandro to immigrate legally, he had entered illegally anyway, to seek employment that would allow him to send money home to support his family.
Alejandro's decision not to wait several years for a visa was based on most every Mexican's knowledge that, once in the U.S., it is virtually legal to be illegal.
Within a year, two more of my brothers-in-law followed Alejandro's path of illegal entry.
Over years of non-enforcement of our immigration laws, the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants has become so blurred that my brothers-in-law simply had no incentive to do it the legal way. Entering illegally got them all the advantages of those who did it legally—but sooner.
I'm often asked: "If you were a poor Mexican, wouldn't you cross into the U.S. for a better life?"
My answer is "Yes—if I were invited."
By systematically declining to enforce our immigration laws, our government extends a virtual invitation to immigrants to come to the U.S. unlawfully. When the choices are to fight your own corrupt government for your rights and a better life or accept America's virtual invitation to migrate unlawfully but without any punitive consequences, the choice is obvious.
Perhaps if our immigration laws had always been enforced, Mexicans would choose to fight for a better life in their own country.
President Obama says that the only way to fix our "broken" immigration system is to legislate "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" a.k.a. amnesty, which must include a "path to citizenship" for the 12 (20?) million illegal aliens already living in the U.S. He claims that, unlike with the first amnesty in 1986, there won't be future massive illegal immigration because this time the borders will be secured and immigration laws will "really" be enforced.
President Obama doesn't call the legalization of 12 million illegal aliens amnesty. He says it's not amnesty because they will have to learn English, pay fines and they will have to go to the back of the line.
But isn't the "back of the line" for my brothers-in-law back in Mexico—behind another one of Ines' siblings who is still waiting there to immigrate legally?
Apparently, there are two lines: one in Mexico and one in the U.S.
Now my brothers-in-law are urging their sister in Mexico to get out of the line she is in and get over to the U.S., to get in back of President Obama's line.
President Obama, most Democrats, and some Republicans promise to enforce our immigration laws in exchange for awarding amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens. But if Arizona's SB1070 experience has taught us anything, it's that any promised enforcement tied to "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" would be challenged by the ACLU et al. The amnesty part of the deal would be implemented immediately—but the promised enforcement would languish in courts, while a new cycle of massive illegal immigration asserts itself.
So what would become of the 12 million illegal aliens presently in the U.S. if the feds were to actually enforce our immigration laws? No doubt some of the 12 million illegal aliens would take the risk to continue to live in the "shadows" as they always have done. But most would find conditions so intolerable that they would deport themselves.
Would this break up families? Only if they chose to be broken up. I know that if I had to leave the U.S., I would take my wife and kids with me. In the case of my brothers-in-law, as is the case with millions of illegal aliens, they would actually be united with the families they left behind.
Conclusion: We don't need immigration reform to deal with the illegal alien problem—we just need to enforce our existing immigration laws.