Amid the general approval from us immigration realists, apparently nobody remarked publicly on the one jarring clinker near the end of Samuelson's op-ed:
"As for present illegal immigrants, we should give most of them legal status, both as a matter of practicality and fairness. Many have been here for years and have American children. At the same time, we should clamp down on new illegal immigration through tougher border controls and employer sanctions."
Even if one agrees with Samuelson regarding "fairness," one would think that the cognitive dissonance involved in writing such a statement would be overwhelming, especially for someone as savvy as Samuelson, who must have been about 40 at the time of the 1986 IRCA amnesty.
For if the social sciences ever become rigorous (as in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy), surely their First Law will acknowledge what everyone knows, that amnesties of illegal aliens beget further illegal immigration and subsequent amnesties.
Confirming data consistent with such a law keep pouring in. Consider a recent article by Paul Belien (proprietor of Brussels Journal) in the August 27, 2007 issue of The American Conservative. In "Letâ€™s Not Go Dutch: Amnesty's track record in Europe should discourage American imitators," Belien tells us:
"Two years ago, when Spain announced a collective amnesty for illegal immigrants, the government in Madrid expected that the measure would apply to 300,000 people at most; 800,000 showed up."
So it's clear that one of the codicils to such a First Law is that every amnesty is much bigger than expected.
Belien goes on:
"Amnesties for illegal immigrants take place at regular intervals in Europe. Each time a government grants one, they invariably say that this will be the last and that from now on all illegal newcomers will be expelled. Of course that never happens.
"Since 1974, Western Europe has given permanent resident cards to over 5 million illegal immigrants. France has granted three major amnesties in the past 25 years. Spain has offered six in the past 15 years. Italy voted amnesties in 1988, 1990, 1996, 1998, and 2002. Last year, it agreed on another one that allowed over 500,000 people to stayâ€”a figure the government now wants to expand to 1 million."
There's a second codicil: Amnesties also breed politicians (at least in liberal western societies) who are just bursting to declare sanctuary cities:
"Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Eindhovenâ€”the five largest cities in the [Netherlands] â€” refuse to 'organize manhunts on illegal immigrants.' Ernst Bakker, the mayor of Hilversum, the town where [Pim] Fortuyn was murdered, told the Dutch press that providing the list of illegal aliens to the government amounts to 'betrayal, informing.' It reminds him of 'Nazi methods.'â€?
Belien finishes with a flourish that could have been written for Samuelson:
"Some Americans might be inclined to think that an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have already been living in the country for many years might be a good idea, on the condition that it be the final one. But the European experience teaches us that governments always underestimate the number of people who can apply for an amnesty, and that amnesties do not close floodgates, they open them."
Firing one more shot at the fish in this barrel, what Samuel Johnson said about second marriages applies as well for illegal-alien amnesties: Proposals such as Samuelson's, above, amount to the triumph of hope over experience.