Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is my favorite columnist on the subject of immigration reform. Although he tends to be liberal, he is the closest thing to an “honest broker” that I have encountered. He won my support as fair minded a while back when he declared that illegal immigrants have no right to demand anything from America; rather, America needs to do what is best for itself, including being generous and humane.
Navarrette’s column this week exemplified his maverick streak. Instead of explaining why President Obama’s executive order was a step in the right direction, he pointed out something the mainstream media has studiously avoided. He suggested that Obama’s order perversely confirmed something that conservatives have charged for many years; namely, that the citizenship granted to babies born to illegal immigrants in America would be used as an anchor to keep all of them in America.
As I reflected on Navarrette’s column and anchor babies while on my bike ride yesterday, I had an epiphany about solving the problem with illegal immigration. The solution to comprehensive immigration reform has been intractable because liberals want to focus on providing some form of amnesty to the 11 million immigrants already here illegally while conservatives want to ignore those people until the danger of additional illegal immigration is eliminated (via an impregnable fence). Navarrette’s column suggested to me a common ground. Instead of building an impregnable fence before granting amnesty, the government can provide the necessary assurances to conservatives by eliminating the magnets that continue to attract illegal immigrants. What are the magnets:
- Birthright citizenship. American citizenship is one of the most valuable things that parents can provide their baby, so it is natural that parents will do whatever is necessary to make that happen. That is a huge magnet. Although the constitution does not clearly provide for birthright citizenship, the courts have so held, and therefore to correct this unintended drafting consequence, Congress will need to pass appropriate legislation or amend the constitution.
- Public schools. Another huge magnet for illegal immigration is the public schooling that is provided to children who are here illegally. Once again, this magnet is based on a tenuous ruling by the courts (Plyler v. Doe) and the ruling needs to be reversed, either through statute or constitutional amendment.
- Sanctuary cities. The federal government is quick to suppress state and local jurisdictions that want to help the feds enforce laws against illegal immigration. This action is usually based on the argument that federal law pre-empts any other jurisdiction from interfering. If the feds can take action to prevent local government from helping enforce the immigration laws, then it should be easy to take action to prevent local government from obstructing enforcement of immigration laws through various sanctuary-city policies.
- Jobs. I’m not sure why so many employers are able to hire so many illegal immigrants with impunity. These laws needs more teeth.
With the elimination of these magnets, I think conservatives could be persuaded to expand President Obama’s executive order to apply to all law-abiding illegal immigrants who have been in the country more than five years. This would not provide special status to parents of anchor babies and would not mandate an impregnable fence, but it would recognize that America feels some responsibility for allowing these people to take root in America.
I think we could all live with this result.