Last week Time magazine breached an important taboo in the establishment media. It published a powerful indictment of America’s current immigration policy—and in particular the U.S. government’s scandalous tolerance of illegal immigration—under the striking title: “Who Left the Door Open?”
The article fully lived up to the title’s sensational promise. It was a thorough, well-researched and timely account of how the U.S. government colludes in allowing as many as 15 million illegal immigrants to enter the United States, to stay and work at wages too low even for low-paid native-born Americans, and to impose heavy costs on the taxpayer for using public services to which they contribute minimally.
Major media stories about immigrants are usually “feel good” epics about individual immigrants who have made good against the odds. There are such inspiring examples, of course. But there are also horrific stories of criminal aliens such as the man who raped and murdered two nuns. And both sorts of individual story should be seen against the broad economic background that the very modest net benefits to native-born Americans from immigration are more than outweighed by the extra fiscal costs of providing them with public services.
Somehow, these stories rarely make it to the front pages—perhaps because, as William MacGowan pointed out in Coloring the News, it is editorial etiquette to assign stories to reporters who bring a relevant perspective to the issues, i.e., immigration stories go to a reporter from an ethnic group composed significantly of recent immigrants.
“Who Left the Door Open?” was the exception. It was written neither by some eager celebrant of diversity, nor by one of that brave but small company of conservative immigration reformers (Peter Brimelow of www.vdare.com, columnist Michelle Malkin, Heather Mac Donald of the City Journal) who risk their careers by their trenchant skepticism—but by two conventional liberal Time reporters, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, best known for their earlier work arguing that the Reagan boom was illusory. I think they were wrong about that. But there is no doubting their diligence, their tenacity, or their determination to dig out the facts and follow where they lead—in this case to some extraordinarily frightening conclusions that the U.S. and Mexican governments would both like hidden.
They pull not a single punch. In broad terms, they point out that this unending wave of illegal immigration is adding to virtually every social problem—notably poverty and crime—afflicting America, and in particular they give a horrifying account of how the murderer of the two nuns had been repeatedly arrested, repeatedly freed, repeatedly deported to Mexico and had repeatedly crossed the border back again.
Throughout this saga, they dryly note, the Immigration and Naturalization Service “was characteristically ineffectual.” Lest you think this an isolated case, Barlett and Steele unearthed worrying statistics about the kind of illegal immigrants who might be bent on murdering all of us: “A sampling of cases last year by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found that of illegal aliens from countries supporting terrorism who had been ordered to be deported, only 6 percent of those not already in custody were actually removed. Of 114 Iranians with final orders for removal, just 11 could be found and were deported. Of 67 Sudanese with final-removal orders, only one was deported. And of 46 Iraqis with final-removal orders, only four were sent packing. All the rest, presumably, were living with impunity somewhere in the U.S.” In other words there may be a bin Laden or two among all those inspiring gardeners and honor students.
Given the potentially disastrous results of terrorists strolling through our porous borders, you might suppose that the Bush administration would be cracking down on border incursions. Far from it. Not only is the president proposing amnesty for illegal immigrants already here, he also wants to reform the law so that U.S. employers can import as many foreign workers quite legally—by the simple tactic of offering jobs at wages no American will accept. As Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies points out, the larger the total number of immigrants coming in, the harder it is to check on the bona fides of any particular person.
Furthermore, in an interview with the Washington Times, Asa Hutchinson of the Homeland Security Department wrung his hands and regretted that a compassionate administration could not possibly deport large numbers of illegal immigrants. In making that argument, he confirmed that the administration has essentially decided to keep the borders porous. For if you tell a potential “illegal” that he can live and work in perfect safety once he reaches a city 20 miles past the border, then he will keep on coming until he eventually makes Los Angeles, even if he has been caught and sent back on 20 previous occasions.
Porous borders are the result of our failure to deport. If Homeland Security does not realize that, it has not grasped the essentials of the problem. Nor is Hutchinson’s hand-wringing persuasive. As a letter-writer to World Net Daily pointed out, during the Canadian “mad cow” scare, the Department of Agriculture was able to trace the whereabouts and provenance of every cow in North America.
If Hutchinson can do nothing else, let him give every illegal immigrant a cow on entering the United States and hand the problem over to Agriculture.