October 7, 2005
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. and Edwin Meese III
When you reward someone for doing something, you encourage
others to engage in similar behavior. That's why amnesty programs
are the wrong way to address illegal immigration.
Any program that allows illegal aliens - persons who have entered
or stayed in the United States in violation of our immigration laws
- to remain in the United States would reward their behavior and
encourage others to do the same.
In addition, allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country
jeopardizes national security and violates the rule of law. A
better policy would involve states and the private sector in
identifying illegal workers and encouraging them to return home.
Then, if they want, they can apply to re-enter legally.
We are a nation with a strong immigrant foundation. A foundation,
that is, of legal immigration. We must keep our doors open to
foreigners, but we also must know who's coming through those
There are millions of illegals in the U.S. today, and there is no
sign that this flood of humanity will abate in the near future.
It's simple supply-and-demand. As long as other nations do not
provide enough jobs to keep up with their population growth, their
citizens will try to cross our border to find work. The
opportunities available to undocumented workers in the United
States encourage thousands more to enter illegally each
This wave of illegals also compromises our homeland security
efforts. As long as people can pour across the border unlawfully in
search of work, others, such as terrorists, smugglers and
criminals, will follow in their path.
However, if there were no jobs available because of stricter
enforcement against businesses for wrongful hiring practices,
immigrants would have no incentive to enter illegally. This would
make policing the border easier, since the only people attempting
to sneak in would be terrorists and other criminals.
Reducing the possible number of illegal immigrants makes meeting
the challenges involved in securing our borders more attainable.
Border security officers could focus more on catching the criminals
and terrorists instead of spending the majority of their time and
resources chasing illegal workers.
To do this, any new initiative should encourage illegal workers to
return to their home countries and then allow them to re-enter
legally and find legitimate work. Some of these costs could be
covered by a national trust fund supported through voluntary
As long as they register with authorities before leaving through
the US-VISIT program they would be able to reapply for legal entry,
without penalty or preference. This is different from an amnesty
program that allows "temporary worker" status. That type of program
does nothing to encourage legal entry or discourage immigrant
workers from breaking the law.
Meanwhile, we need to encourage federal, state and local
governments to enforce our laws and work together to improve the
security infrastructure at points of entry. Enforcement should
include prosecuting benefits fraud, identity theft and tax evasion,
in addition to immigration violations.
This would be easier if businesses were better able to identify
lawful workers quickly and at a reasonable cost without violating
individuals' rights and privacy. Working with businesses and
creating alternatives to bureaucratic, government-run programs
would be a more effective policy for getting illegal immigrants out
of the country and bringing workers here legally.
The key to an intelligent immigration policy is to remember one
central truth: Immigrants who unlawfully enter and remain in the
country are violating the law. An amnesty program that ignores this
criminal behavior will only contribute to a general disrespect for
the law. This is the wrong message to send. We want immigrants to
follow the laws of the United States and take them seriously.
The United States must continue to be a beacon to the world. The
challenge is to create practical policies that can be fairly
implemented and that make our national security a priority.
Edwin Meese III, a distinguished fellow at The Heritage
Foundation, served as attorney general under President Reagan.
James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for defense and
homeland security at Heritage.
First appeared on FoxNews.com
When you reward someone for doing something, you encourage others to engage in similar behavior. That's why amnesty programs are the wrong way to address illegal immigration.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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Edwin Meese III
Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus
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