The “No Migrant Left Behind” Act

About the immigration bill that is apparently dead on arrival in both houses of Congress, some observations:

Some conservatives are saying this is the best immigration control bill proposed in the last 30 years, with features that, if proposed in the past, most sensible people would have jumped to embrace and vote for. This is correct.

It is still a no good rotten bill that should be scorned with extreme prejudice.

How to reconcile these seemingly contradictory propositions? Easy. By this point conservatives can recognize a Lucy-and-the-football ruse when they see it.

The bill promises lots of enhanced enforcement at the border. The 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform law promised stronger border control too, along with employer verification of legal status of job applicants, in exchange for amnesty for 3 million illegal immigrants living in the country. The amnesty was awarded, but the border enforcement and employer verification measures never happened. Reagan’s Attorney General Ed Meese, who helped craft the law, told me more than 20 years ago that Reagan and Republicans were snookered, and regretted that Reagan signed it.

Why should any sensible person sign up to kick that football again?

The bill makes extravagant promises that can’t possibly be kept, without getting to the root of the matter, which are promiscuous asylum policies and inadequate infrastructure (walls or fences and manpower) at the border to stop illegal border crossing. The bill promises to “expedite” asylum hearings and speed up deportations, with a supposed 90-day timeline, as opposed to the years it takes today. The expansion of personnel that would be required to do this is beyond credulity—and beyond the capacity of the government to deliver.

My favorite detail is that “migrants” claiming asylum but for whom there is inadequate space in an immigration facility will be released with ankle monitors. I suspect the ACLU already has a lawsuit written up to challenging an ankle monitor requirement, and a friendly federal judge will strike down this provision on any number of grounds. How stupid do Democrats think we are?

Our lawmakers, in both parties, seem to be operating under the old sentimental view that the intentions of a bill, and its provisions, leavened with still more billions of our dollars, can accomplish anything. No one takes seriously that much of it will simply not be implemented at all, or if so, will not work as declared. We still live in the “No Child Left Behind” mentality, as though the Lake Wobegon Effect (“where every child is above average”) can be brought about by an act of legislation and the stroke of the presidential signing pen. Think of the immigration bill as the “No Migrant Left Behind Act,” because that is how it would work out in practice.

House Republicans already passed an immigration control bill last year, the Secure the Border Act of 2023. It calls for building a border wall, scaling back the grounds for asylum, and instituting employment verification measures. The Senate has not voted on it. Maybe the media should be asking why.

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