On immigration, why is Congress putting the cart before the horse?

On immigration, why is Congress putting the cart before the horse?
© Greg Nash

As the Senate spends the week considering various options for immigration reform designed to shield illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation, Tea Party supporters around the nation are asking me a simple question: Why is the Senate putting the cart before the horse?

Consider that virtually every proposal under consideration begins with the premise that this particular group of illegal immigrants — the “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children — must be shielded from deportation. They did not come here illegally of their own free will. They were brought here as children. It wasn’t their fault. They should not be required to pay the penalty for their parents bringing them here, because in America, we don’t hold people responsible for the actions of their parents.

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At first glance, that’s a compelling argument, at least to some. But by that logic, the child of a bank robber should be allowed to keep the proceeds of a bank robbery committed by his or her parents. After all, the child had nothing to do with the crime, and had no say in the matter. Of course, we don’t prosecute and send to jail children of bank robbers. We believe individuals are responsible, and must be held accountable, for their own actions, not the actions of others.

But we wouldn’t allow those children to keep the ill-gotten cash from that bank robbery, either. If we did, we’d have a lot more bank robberies. That’s exactly the situation we face today, after decades of lax enforcement of our immigration laws. Lax enforcement begets more illegal immigration, which begets more lax enforcement, and so on, until the rule of law itself is on shaky ground.

And as to putting the cart before the horse? Again, virtually every proposal under consideration seeks to marry some form of legal status for the “Dreamers,” a policy desire of the left, with some form of strengthened border security, a policy desire of the right.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE insists on $25 billion for enhanced border security, including funding to build a wall. Others leave out the wall, but support some funding for enhanced border security. Some include a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” while others would offer temporary legal status that could be renewed.

But all are united in one element of their proposals: They would trade some form of legal status immediately for enhanced border security later. Like the cartoon character Wimpy, they would gladly pay Tuesday for a hamburger today.

The problem, of course, is that the American people have been fed this particular line of horse manure many times. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, also known as “Simpson Mazzoli” for its principal congressional authors, Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Romano Mazzoli.

In that law, Congress offered legal protection, in other words, amnesty, to illegal immigrants who had arrived before Jan. 1, 1982 in exchange for tougher enforcement of immigration law. We’ve been living, and suffering, with the result for more than 30 years. Instead, Congress should put the horse in front of the cart. Show the American people the federal government is serious about enforcing immigration law first, and then come up with a long-term plan for the “Dreamers.”

Build the wall. End the visa lottery. End chain migration. Implement the biometric visa entrance-exit system. End the “sanctuary cities.” Add new Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, Border Patrol agents, immigration judges, and immigration lawyers, so we can attack the backlog of 400,000 immigration cases that have jammed our immigration courts.

Use those resources and related actions to demonstrate now and for the next three to four years that the federal government is serious about stopping illegal immigration. Prove to us that this time, you actually mean it. Then we can talk about a long-term solution for the “Dreamers” and other illegal immigrants. Is that really so hard to understand?

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.