The Gang of Eight’s “comprehensive” immigration-reform bill contains a number of superficially attractive security mandates: It would require the federal government to have 100 percent “situational awareness” of the border, to catch 90 percent of illegal border-crossers in high-traffic areas, to establish a tracking system to address the problem of those who enter the country illegally but overstay their visas, etc. So attractive are those goals that we have supported them in the past, on the many occasions upon which the government has promised to achieve them. Disappointingly, Washington keeps failing to deliver on its promises. The unspoken premise of the Gang of Eight bill is: This time it’s different. We are skeptical that this is so. And regardless, there is a great deal in this package that is deeply objectionable.Unfortunately, this is the same amnesty-first/enforcement-later model that has burned us before. Senator Marco Rubio’s admirers like to compare him to Ronald Reagan, and in this case he resembles the 40th president in putting too much faith in the willingness of Washington to deliver border security in the face of opposition from ethnic-solidarity politics and the cheap-labor lobby.
Congress mandated the creation of a visa-tracking system, for instance, in 1996. Since then, Congress has on multiple occasions reiterated its demand that the executive branch comply with the law, and the executive branch has on each occasion failed to do so: Bill Clinton’s administration failed to do so, George W. Bush’s administration failed to do so, and Barack Obama’s administration thus far has failed to do so. The system the bill would mandate is even weaker than the system already mandated: It would apply at airports and seaports, but not for land crossings. If we are being asked to believe that this requirement will inspire President Obama to suddenly get religion on the subject of illegal immigration, we say that the evidence is against such a proposition, and that hoping that whoever follows him will do so is simply an act of faith — and though prayer availeth much, it is insufficient grounds for national-security policy.
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