In an interview this morning on Fox & Friends, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the proposals she offered as part of her first comprehensive discussion on immigration reform. Last Friday, Napolitano announced that immigration reform should consist of “serious and effective enforcement,” a rational system for dealing with future flows of immigrants, and — perhaps most importantly — a path to legalization for those who are already here.
Today, Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson asked Napolitano to explain her “controversial comments.” Napolitano responded:
I don’t think they’re controversial. I think they’re commonsense…
The notion that somehow you’re going to find and deport the 11-12 million who are here illegally is illusory. So if you don’t do anything, you basically have amnesty by inaction. What we’re saying is look, you gotta come out, you’ve gotta report, you’re gonna have to pay a fine, you’re gonna have to learn English, you’re gonna have to be a taxpayer — those are the things that bring people out of the shadows.
Jon Feere over at the Center for Immigration Studies is one of those individuals who opposes Napolitano’s “controversial” solutions and favors an “illusory” strategy of “attrition through enforcement.” Feere proposes shrinking the population of undocumented immigrants through hardline enforcement measures that include deporting as many immigrants as possible and making life so unbearable for those that aren’t caught, that they choose to “deport themselves.” Besides the questionable moral implications associated with Feere’s recommendation, attrition through enforcement just isn’t feasible.
The estimated costs associated with any mass deportation effort would likely be at least $206 billion over five years, and could be as high as $230 billion or more. Meanwhile, the estimated revenue associated with the 2006 immigration reform bill which would’ve put undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization totaled $66 billion over a ten year period. Most undocumented immigrants come to the US out of economic desperation and it’s unlikely that there’s much the government could legally do to make their life harder here than it is for them abroad.
Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the federal government will start pouring billions of dollars into an “illusory” strategy that’s only supported by a vocal minority. Requiring undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pay all taxes they owe, and face certain penalties as part of earning legal status is a “tough and fair” path to legalization that’s supported by the majority of voters, not un-endorsed amnesty. Meanwhile, inaction on immigration reform would represent a silent pardon of the status quo that wouldn’t go unnoticed.