We're Not Asking That Much


ACRU Staff


May 1, 2007

A headline among today’s MSNBC news entries reads, “Immigrant rights groups rally across the U.S.” The story beneath the headline notes that some of the participants in the rallies will decline to wear T-shirts they donned last year, which bore the message, “We’re illegal. So what?” Cooler heads have apparently concluded that this particular slogan was, for a variety of reasons, imprudent.

The MSNBC story also notes that a number of rallies will highlight how “families are being torn apart” by law enforcement raids and the deportation of parents found to have entered the country illegally.

In this story, as in so many others like it, one key fact goes unmentioned: The number of immigrants who enter the country legally. This group needs to be pushed into the shadows because its existence belies both the analytical and sentimental thrust of the illegal immigrant amnesty movement (by whatever euphemism “amnesty” may be called).

The main analytical thrust of the movement is that illegal entry is the only practical solution for foreign nationals who want a better life in the United States. The figures tell a different story. According to a September 2005 Working Paper by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics, from 1990 through 2003, our country had roughly 12.7 million legal immigrants. In other words, in just that period of a little over a decade, the United States had more legal immigrants than the entire estimated population of illegal immigrants. The notion that illegal immigration is the only choice is, therefore, sheer baloney. Illegal immigration is like illegal anything else — it is virtually never a product of necessity and virtually always a product of selfishness.

The main sentimental thrust of the amnesty movement — at least if today’s rallies are any indication — is that children who have done nothing wrong will be hurt by the deportation of their illegal parents. In the first place, as a factual matter, this hardly need be the case; the parents can take their children with them (and if they maintain the “strong families” we are constantly being told illegals have, they will). But even were it otherwise, the blame for damage to children lies not with those who enforce the law but with those who took the gamble that they could get away with breaking it.

For years when I was a prosecutor, I heard at sentencing that the defendant shouldn’t have to go to jail because that would harm his kids. Occasionally this was true. But it is not up to the law, nor society generally, to remedy for criminals what they knowingly jeopardize for themselves. People know when they make methamphetamine that they might get jailed. They also know that when they sneak into the country they might get deported. The time to have thought about their families was when they decided — unlike the millions and millions of legal immigrants who will never face this problem — that the law wasn’t that important.

Just obey the rules. We’re not asking that much.



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