Does the US owe amnesty to future illegal immigrants?

silhouettes of immigrants walking with luggage

When immigration was raised at last week’s presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden  said he would quickly pursue amnesty for over 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. He added that he would immediately reinstate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program and offer a pathway to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers” because “we owe them.” 

These proposals would give smugglers and criminal cartels their next advertisement for new illegal immigrant customers.

Promise of amnesty is the single greatest public relations coup for coyotes (smugglers) imaginable. They will use that promise to recruit many tens-of-thousands of illegal immigrants to pay them many tens-of-millions of dollars to try to sneak them, including children, across the border. 

Nothing could be more irresponsible and dangerous. All that does is enrich criminal cartels at the expense of American taxpayers.

Providing amnesty and citizenship to illegal immigrants would eventually cost Americans, according to a detailed study by the Heritage Foundation, a net fiscal burden of $6.3 trillion for Social Security, Medicare, welfare programs, public education and other government benefits and services.

This would also reverse the recent progress the federal government has made on immigration reform and border security.  The Trump administration has sought to rescind the unconstitutional DACA program created by President Obama. Customs and Border Protection has quickly built approximately 400 miles of a new border wall system to stop the coyotes from smuggling illegal immigrants and prevent the drug cartels from bringing deadly drugs across our southern border.

The administration is on target to complete its goal of 450 miles of this new border wall system by January. As Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has stated, Border Patrol agents requested this wall system. And it works. Where the wall has been built, apprehensions decrease by at least 90 percent.

Biden, on the other hand, has stated that we would immediately stop construction of the border wall system. “Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders,” his campaign website states. Instead, he would direct federal resources to our ports of entry because he stated that “all the bad stuff is happening” at the ports of entry. Our U.S. Border Patrol agents, who operate between the ports, would strongly disagree.

The debate moderator and Biden also perpetuated the claim that the administration cannot find the parents of 545 illegal immigrant minors separated from their adult caregivers during the White House’s brief “No Tolerance” policy. The Department of Homeland Security has debunked this claim, explaining that out of the 485 parents who plaintiffs’ counsel have been able to contact, they have yet to identify a single family that wants their child reunited with them in the child’s native country. 

The result is the child remains in the U.S. while the parent remains in their home country. The reason is simple. The parents hope their children become the next “Dreamers” and that they will receive amnesty in the U.S. so their family can eventually join them here. 

Sponsors of the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act – including then-Sen. Joe Biden – which became law in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), laid the groundwork for many immigrant minors coming to the U.S. and recklessly changed the course of U.S. immigration. They claimed their legislation would protect immigrant minors, but the bill lowered the bar for such minors to receive immigration benefits and services — providing easily foreseeable consequences that parents would intentionally send their children unaccompanied across the border in the hopes of gaining a family foothold in the U.S.

Predictably, the number of unaccompanied immigrant minors coming to the U.S. subsequently ballooned — from fewer than 20,000 in 2010 to more than 75,000 in 2019. So, it is no surprise that the parents Biden discussed at the debate want their children to remain in the U.S., separated from them. In fact, the policies established by the advocates for TVPRA incentivize such behavior. 

Americans need policies that would continue to secure all of the border, fight human trafficking and drug cartels, and discourage parents from sending their unaccompanied children on the dangerous journey to the U.S. 

By contrast, the policies advocated by Biden would concede large portions of the border, enrich human traffickers and drug cartels, and perpetuate the cycle of illegal immigration by giving amnesty to Dreamers and over 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. These policies would prioritize illegal immigrants over Americans. Americans are owed more. 

Lora Ries is a senior research fellow for homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.

Tags American immigration crisis Chad Wolf Coyote DACA deferred action for childhood arrivals DREAM Act illegal immigration Illegal immigration to the United States Immigration to the United States Joe Biden Mexico–United States border
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