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Rewarding bad behavior is the worst approach to illegal immigration

Greg Nash

Amnesty for illegal aliens is a slippery slope. As any parent, school teacher or police officer knows, rewarding bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. And much of our current immigration situation is directly attributable to the series of amnesties that began with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

Rather than pushing the reset button, and allowing the United States to regain control of its borders, IRCA sent a clear message to would-be illegal aliens: “If you violate our immigration laws long enough, you will be rewarded for your troubles and granted legal status.”

We are now contemplating yet another amnesty. The entire country — indeed, much of the world — has learned that DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” and has heard the tales of “great kids” who were “brought to the United States through no fault of their own.” And, as the struggle over a DACA bill drags on, the debate has now moved well beyond a discussion about whether we should deport, or grant relief to, those improperly promised a path to legalization by the Obama administration. And most of the nation’s elected leaders haven’t a clue what their constituents are really thinking.

{mosads}Average Americans have begun asking themselves why Congress is willing to cut foreigners a huge break that typically isn’t available to native-born Americans when they violate a law. Take Americans who are caught cheating on their taxes or cited for speeding when they’re late to pick up the kids. How often do they get an amnesty? And as the number of illegal aliens who might be amnestied keeps expanding, they’re beginning to wonder exactly what the open borders lobby is willing to forgive.


They have reason to be concerned. Recent pieces published in Vox and The Atlantic make the outrageous claim that the vicious MS-13 gang is a creation of flawed American policies, rather than the direct result of criminal behavior by individuals. Vox asserts that MS-13 began as a relatively benign “social group.” And both publications argue that it was turned into major criminal enterprise by a flawed American criminal justice system and the overly-aggressive enforcement of immigration law. They also maintain that President Trump’s publicly voiced concerns about MS-13 benefitting from lax immigration enforcement is nothing more than a ruse, intended to demonize immigrants as criminals. 

Thankfully, that argument is a bridge too far for the majority of U.S. citizens and legal residents whose major everyday concerns are making a living, protecting their families and enjoying a peaceful life in a secure country. Those folks are not inclined to feel sympathy for the members of a gang whose motto is “Kill, Rape, Control.” A criminal enterprise whose members stabbed a Montgomery County, Maryland man 100 times and then ripped his heart out.

American voters believe that type of sheer savagery shouldn’t take place in the United States at all. And they’re upset that so many of their fellow citizens are becoming the victims of all manner of brutal crime — from the Boston Marathon bombing to the murder of Kate Steinle — committed by uninvited guests who we treat with respect and dignity, even when they break our laws.

Most Americans simply don’t accept that a life of crime is a valid response to either life’s everyday difficulties or more nebulous political challenges like “colonial oppression.” They just want foreigners who rip out their neighbors’ internal organs deported expeditiously. As a result, they view mass amnesty as the first step in the collapse of our criminal justice system and the erosion of our borders. For Joe Average, what begins as amnesty for DACA recipients ends with lawyers from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center arguing that MS-13 is really just the Central American equivalent of the local Elks lodge.

Rather than unfairly portraying immigrants as criminals, President Trump simply seems to be applying Ronald Reagan’s wise advice that, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Americans elected Donald Trump because they believe his no-nonsense approach will make America safe again — for immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens. And while they may tolerate a limited amnesty for sympathetic illegal aliens who have no criminal record, their patience is beginning to wear very thin with those in the open-borders contingent who blame the immigration crisis on our great American society, rather than holding illegal aliens accountable for their own actions.

Matt O’Brien is the former chief of the National Security Division within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has also served as assistant chief counsel in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York district. He is currently the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Tags Amnesty DACA Deferred Action for Child Arrivals deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump Illegal immigration Immigration Immigration to the United States Matt O'Brien U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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