The Illegal Immigration Bill: A 37 Year Ethics Train Wreck Rumbles On, With No End In Sight


The details of the “immigration reform bill” moving through Congress like a water buffalo through a snake are less important than the fact that some action is being taken regarding a problem that has been cynically, incompetently, dishonestly and negligently allowed to fester since the last illegal immigrant accommodation law was passed in 1986. This is one of the rare cases in which doing almost anything is more responsible than doing nothing, and that is the beginning and the end of the list of the bill’s virtues. This is an ugly ethics train wreck  in which there are no heroes, only dunces and villains. There may be a worse one, but at the moment, I can’t think of it.

The 11,000,000 or more illegal aliens in this country have to be given some way to attain citizenship and get out of the shadows. That is an unavoidable, pragmatic reality, the best of a stinking pile of unethical options. All the rationalizations for doing this are unethical, except one: they are here, we allowed them to get here and allowed them to stay, and now we are out of choices. It’s our fault, which is to say our incompetent, irresponsible government’s, and now we have to swallow hard and accept the consequences.

The consequences are that millions of people who cheated to get here, don’t deserve to be here, and shouldn’t be rewarded for breaking the law, will become a progressively more damaging social problem if they are not given the opportunity to assimilate so we have toi give them that opportunity. Anyone who argues otherwise is either dumb or dreaming. Of course the United States of American can’t deport millions of people, tearing families and communities apart. Of course. It’s far too late for that. Should every single one of them, as an individual case, have been deported, if they had been duly apprehended? Again, of course. That is not, however, the situation we face.

Meanwhile, all the players in this ghastly drama have disgraced themselves and betrayed the nation…

  • Democrats, who cynically over-look and facilitate illegal immigration because they like the electoral demographics it promises, and the country be damned.
  • Republicans, who have resisted all attempts to address an obvious  problem that they contributed to by putting their fingers in their ears and humming, and who now, as a final bow to cowardice and zero integrity, want to embrace rewarding illegal immigration simply because they think it will win them votes.
  • Progressives, who argue for open borders, requiring the United States to become a welfare benefactor of the citizens of every corrupt and inept third world nation, risking economic and cultural ruination, and who tar any effort to enforce immigration laws as “racist.”
  • Conservatives, who have opposed “on principle” what they call “amnesty,” but what is really “the only remaining alternative,” all while never making any realistic proposals of their own. (“Build a big fence” is not a realistic proposal.)
  • Conservative talk radio, which killed efforts under the Bush Administration for a bi-partisan border enforcement and path to citizenship bill by playing the “amnesty” card.
  • The private sector and corporate interests, which carefully nurtured neglect of immigration enforcement to provide a stream of cheap labor and exploitable workers.
  • Consumers, who were willing to accept the breaching of our boarders to keep prices low through unscrupulously low wages.
  • Wealthy Americans who happily hired illegal aliens as landscapers, household help and nannies, enjoying their low fees and pretending that there was no basis for suspicion.
  • The Obama Administration, which has blocked or tried to block legitimate efforts by various states to withhold services from illegal residents who shouldn’t be receiving them.
  • The U.S. Senate, which appears to be ready to pass, once again, legislation that few of its supporters have actually read.
  • Tea party opponents to the measure in the House, who continue to argue for absurd conditions to be attached to any illegal immigrant measure, such as the requirement that rehabilitating illegals learn English. Economic and social success in America requires learning English; if that isn’t incentive enough, unenforceable laws won’t help. How would an “English police” operate, I wonder?
  • Supporters of the various “dream acts,” which create an incentive for  desperate aliens to break laws to bring their families to the United States
  • Hispanic advocacy groups, who choose loyalty to their heritage over the best interests of their country, by advocating waiver of the rule of law and abdication of the duty of a nation to protect its borders.
  • The mainstream media, which has habitually distorted the issues, ethical and otherwise, and portrayed the opposition to illegal immigration as opposition to immigration, and has represented insistence on law enforcement as proof of cruelty and racism.
  • Real racists and xenophobes, like Pat Buchanan, who add their bigoted voices to the fair and legitimate protests, tainting their credibility.
  • Mexico, a corrupt, incompetent nation that continues to squander its human and other resources, resulting in inexcusable levels of poverty, and relies on the U.S.’s incompetence and greed to provide an escape route to its suffering citizens, making Mexico’s problem ours.
  • The illegal immigrants themselves.

I don’t see anyone to admire, or respect in that list.

Nonetheless, a nation cannot allow millions of people to live within its boarders as scofflaws. If we can’t eject them, and we can’t, then we have to accept them, and devise a way to bring them out of the shadows….even if it means, and make no mistake, it does mean, rewarding illegal conduct, and creating a fresh incentive for more of it. It’s nothing to be proud of, and anyone who dares to represent it as such is a scoundrel and a liar. The illegal immigration mess has only one, small, benefit. It stands as the best example I know to illustrate the terrible consequences of weak and unprincipled leadership.


33 thoughts on “The Illegal Immigration Bill: A 37 Year Ethics Train Wreck Rumbles On, With No End In Sight

  1. Why do people think anything will change with a new immigration law? It is in both parties best interests to continue to allow a large illegal population work here.

    Why would we be able to stop illegal immigrants’ entry any better than illegal drugs? Where there is a demand, the market will deliver. DEA is a joke, and so will border patrol.

    Why do people think we will stop employers, large, medium and small, from continuing to hire illegal immigrants. Did we ever prosecute any of these employers for breaking the law?

    Why do people think setting boundaries and requirements for a path to citizenship will be followed? Can assure you that immigration lawyers are far more clever, and motivated, to exploit any loophole… The last amnesty bill went 100% over the projected population.

    Until our Federal Government starts to show an interest in enforcing the laws already on the books, they should not be allowed to create a new law, that will be incompetently followed.

    • And to further hammer my point about Federal incompetence on immigration issues, the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy for Cubans is wrought with massive Medicare/Medicaid fraud… To the tune of 100 Millions of dollars in MIAMI DADE COUNTY ALONE!!!

  2. You’re right, but there has to be an effort to keep more illegal immigrants from coming here while the rest is hashed out. It’s just unrealistic to think there is a fair way out of this. There isn’t, and stopping the flow has to be the first. part of any action taken.

    • There is hope…maybe Obama’s effort to cripple the energy industry to effect climate change fixes that won’t work and are based on projections from the same people whose projections have been mistaken again and again will make the economy even worse. Then only crazy people will try to come across the border….

  3. Great post. I would have added just one fact — immigration is at a net zero right now, so how does this impact (if at all) the discussion?

    • Not at all. That just means as many illegal immigrants are leaving as are arriving. It doesn’t count the kids they have, which are magically citizens, nor does it mean illegals aren’t still coming.

      Imagine a stat that says the net increase in the number of unsolved murders is zero, meaning that as many cold cases are being solves as new unsolved murder files are being opened. But crimes are still being committed, there are still new criminals, and people are getting killed.

      Then there’s the fact that the zero-sum is certainly temporary. As soon as the economy improves, the numbers will climb again. I’ve stopped hiring my LEGAL cleaning and gardening help until business picks up, and I’m not alone.

      • I’m not sure if I agree with your analogy. Illegal immigration is a crime to be sure, but if it’s at a net zero, I’m not sure that all this $$$ should be spent on enforcement and fences. While immigrants are having children, those children arguably are going to turn into workers and tax payers. There’s no potential economic or social benefit to murders. All that being said, I thought this was a fantastic post. You should put your categories into a chart showing the cross-over between groups, campaign financing, lobbying dollars, etc. I’d love to see that.

  4. As a person whose family was standing on the shore Powhatan’s river when all you white people showed up, I think all of you should leave. lol

    • Too bad your family didn’t have the foresight to pass any immigration laws…that’s what happens with open borders. It’s OK, though, right? Now you have a Washington DC pro football team maned after you…

      • Well they were guests, and they weren’t rude like the Spanish who just slaughtered everyone they met, so we thought “Hell we’ve got lots of room let them stay”. Boy was that a mistake. Then everyone and the brother staring showing up and before you knew it we backing into the Pacific Ocean thinking “What the hell just happened?’

  5. The biggest problem I see with the current immigration bill is the same problem we had in 1986. Amnesty is going to pass, people will be integrated in – and then the defensive moves are going to be ignored. Like the fence, which was passed into law already in 2006. If it wasn’t built the last time it was included in the law, why on earth should it have any value as a bargaining chip this time? Or increased enforcement, or penalties for hiring, or regulations or requirements for staying?

    The little I’ve seen of the law has so many waivers and ‘this person has the authority to grant permission to stay’ clauses that end runs around the rule of law that I shudder to think of this passing.A bad law is no solution to the problem, and our government has shown that they excell at creating truely horrific laws – and this is another one that’s gonna top the charts.

  6. One of the things (among many) that ticks me off most about this whole mess is that Mexico doesn’t return the favor…visa overstay is prosecuted as a felony.
    I may have said this before, but I have a few friends in Tokyo with liberal leanings who lambaste anyone in favor of immigration control in the US as racist, cruel, etc. I suggested that if they feel that strongly about it (some of the ‘discussions’ have been unbelievably uncivil) that they let their Japanese visas lapse in a gesture of solidarity…no takers as of yet. They know that their next Facebook posts would be from a holding cell in Narita Airport. Illegal immigration is possible only where there are no consequences.

  7. You forgot about the INS and current dysfunctional legal immigration policies that send US trained scientist and engineers back to their unfriendly countries to work on weapons to be used against us.

    • I wouldn’t. Customers have no obligation to police business establishments or investigate violations of law. That’s the job of law enforcement and the government. One should be able to presume that a business is operating legally.

  8. Knowledge of illegal immigrant hiring in agricultural and food services businesses is widespread, so I don’t know why you could presume any such thing. If you buy an apple that’s not from a farm down the street – and maybe even if it is – it’s likely picked by an illegal immigrant.

    When a guy on the streetcorner asks you if you want to buy some real good stuff, you’d be a fool to presume that he’s licensed and legal.
    But I think you know this already, as you’ve already listed “consumers” on your list.

    The train wreck, if indeed it’s a train wreck, is bigger than you’ve described. The majority of our agriculture depends on illegal immigrant work.

    • 1. What do you mean, “if it is a trainwreck”? What else would you call it?
      2. Agriculture “depends” on illegals the way plantations “depended” on slavery. Agriculture can pay fair wages and hire Americans, and we can pay fair prices without getting discounts on the labor of exploited illegal workers. It just chooses not to. That’s greed, not dependency.

  9. I’ll answer in reverse order if I may.
    2. Yes, and purchasers of cotton were tacitly supporting slavery by buying it. Thus apple purchasers are also ethically liable. (The calculus of what “fair prices” would be if agriculture had to hire legal American workers is complicated and much-debated, but it’s safe to say that the price increases would be large enough that we can’t just blithely say we could pay it.)

    1. A train wreck has innocent victims. Nobody but nobody is ethically clean in the American immigration debate. Thus it’s not the best metaphor. But the photo’s cool enough that I’ll let it slide!

    • I defined ethics train wreck here, and when I use it, it is a term of art: An complex and long-running ethics-related event in which every person involved ends up involved in some kind of ethical misconduct, or tainted by the incident in some way. Examples: Trayvon Martin, Penn State, the gun control debate after Sandy Hook.

      You’ll find better trainwreck photos on the site.

  10. Then I guess I’m confused as to why you don’t think buying an apple is part of this train wreck. You’re the one who listed “consumers;” I was just trying to make the point that in immigration arguments we far too often finger-point at others – rich people, greedy business owners – when we’re all culpable.

    I like this train wreck photo for the man in a horse. I’m sure he’s thinking, “It was never like this with my method of transportation!”

  11. That pretty much sums it up.

    The only thing I can think to add is how unfortunate it is that the sum total of Federal power has demonstrated such a dismal enforcement and processing track record that no reasoned thinker can believe them when they say we will make it right for those already here, close the border, and build an adequate capacity for processing legal immigration.

    Willful failure in the latter two are the reason why we will do this again in another 20 years.

    If a person is demonstrably honorable and educated or willing to take a tough job and do it well, it should not take 15 years for them to get here legally. The fact that it has, combined with insufficient border security, is a recipe for the current mess.

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