Commentary Magazine


Why Immigration Reform Won’t Pass

President Obama justifies his plans (put off until after the midterm elections) to act unilaterally to legalize millions of illegal immigrants on the grounds that Congress has failed to pass the immigration reform bill he prefers. That’s a risible justification for throwing the Constitution under the bus and bypassing Congress and the checks and balances enshrined by the Founders. But even if we all agreed that reform is needed, rarely does the president or his supporters stop to ask why it is that so many Americans and the House of Representatives oppose their position.

An answer comes again today from one of the most visible advocates of changing the system to grant the 11 million illegals currently in the country a path to legal status if not citizenship. Jose Antonio Vargas, a former reporter for the Washington Post who outed himself in the New York Times in 2011 as having come to the United States illegally from the Philippines as a child, writes today in a Politico Magazine article about his decision to symbolically turn himself in to the Department of Homeland Security last month along with ten other undocumented aliens. Vargas believes the system is broken and unjust and is demanding the president not wait a moment before using an executive order to override the will of Congress and stop the deportation of illegals.

If we limit our discussion to the question of a system that doesn’t work and which has been loosely enforced by the government for many years, Vargas has a strong argument. Indeed, the need for reform is clear and that includes some sort of rational solution for the millions of illegals who, like Vargas, are obviously not going to be deported.

But if Vargas and Obama want to know why there is such fierce resistance to some of the proposals, including the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate last year, they need to stop and consider how the mockery of the rule of law implicit in Vargas’s brazen stunts (such as getting himself arrested near the Texas border in July) aimed at pressuring the government to let illegals off the hook undermines their case.

It is one thing to say that those living in the shadows should be brought under the umbrella of the system. It is quite another for Vargas and his colleagues to act as if obeying or enforcing the law is merely an option. Vargas has become not so much the poster child for the arbitrary nature of a law he opposes but a professional illegal immigrant.

That is, in and of itself, something of an affront to the whole concept of law and law-abiding citizens. While he boasts of walking around with a copy of the Constitution in his pocket (which he carries, along with his Philippine passport, for good luck), he fails to recognize that the basis of that document is a belief in the rule of law. Though he writes eloquently of the plight of illegals, he seems to think the fact that they broke the law by entering the U.S. without permission is a mere detail. His attitude is primarily one of entitlement, not martyrdom.

Above all, what Vargas and those who seek to publicize and laud his antics forget is that by treating the law as a thing that can be violated with impunity they are undermining the cause they seek to promote. If, after all, the border can be crossed with impunity, there is no border or law.

It is precisely this sense of chaos that led to the current impasse as well as to this summer’s surge of illegal immigrants and in particular, unaccompanied children, to flood across the border to Texas.

Instead of mocking the increased security present along the Rio Grande or those who ask him and other illegals to leave and then get in line behind those already waiting to get into the country, Vargas should understand that there would never be a critical mass of support for reform until the border is secured. Many erstwhile supporters of the Senate bill have come to the conclusion that any resolution of the plight of the illegals must come after the flow across the border is stopped, not before.

Every publicity stunt which allows illegal immigrants to flaunt their status makes it that much harder for any reform bill to pass. Even more to the point, rather than encouraging Obama to trample on the Constitution, Vargas should realize that the only way to win over House Republicans who believe they are defending the rule of law is to meet them on their own ground. Instead, Vargas and Obama are both sending a clear message to the House that they regard the issue with contempt.

This bodes ill for future efforts at reform. If Obama acts after the election on his own to change the law it will set off years of bitter conflict about the constitutionality of his actions, causing opponents of reform to refuse to listen to future proposals. And so long as Vargas and others treat the law as a joke, it will be hard to blame them.

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One Response to “Why Immigration Reform Won’t Pass”


    Back in the day, every high school english curriculum included ‘ A Man for All Seasons ‘ and every instructor worth their salt planned a lesson around More’s argument to Roper about going around the law to get at the Devil . ” And when the Devil turned on you , where would you hide, Roper , the laws all being flat ” Used to be that respect for the law in all its vagaries and messiness was taught to every school boy and girl . But no more , we have progressed far beyond that simple mindedness in our Brave New World

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