Dale Wilcox: DACA Aliens Should ‘Dream’ to Return and Reform

Protesters gather near Trump Tower to protest against attacks on immigrants under policies of US President Donald Trump, August 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / Eduardo MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Although what was and wasn’t agreed to in last night’s Trump-Schumer-Pelosi amnesty dinner is still grinding its way through the Dems’ exaggerating/White House backtracking phases, the meeting nevertheless appears to have been built on an alarming assumption that’s preoccupied establishment news outlets since the day DACA was renounced: That a congressional amnesty of 2 million DACA aliens is a necessary and sure thing.

That President Trump is currently cueing up a compromise bill involving some legislative form of DACA deserves far deeper rumination. By White House aides and punditry alike. For instance, have we actually considered what the unintended consequences of mass amnesty could be? And have we considered what the benefits of repatriation (voluntary, subsidized, etc.) and continued immigration-enforcement could be?

The first question’s not hard. After all, we’ve had many amnesties in the past. In 1950, when the Truman Commission held hearings on the effects of illegal immigration on American labor, border agents testified that a series of amnesties of unauthorized workers, pushed through at the behest of agribusiness, had indeed created a definite ‘pull-force’ for further illegal entries.[1] The following decade saw illegal-alien levels reach such heights that for the first time rolling repatriation drives, both forced and voluntary, had to be employed.

In 1983, when a group of Salvadorian illegal aliens filed a lawsuit demanding amnesty, then-Secretary of State George Schultz warned of the “floodtide” that such a concession would produce—the suit was dismissed.

The same pull-force was on display following the first congressional amnesty of 1986 and again with the unaccompanied-minors’ surge that followed DACA itself.

And between 1994 and 2000, Congress passed no less than six separate amnesties, none of which apparently “solved” anything as today our illegal-alien population is the highest it’s ever been.

Besides illegal entry, overstaying, social security fraud, etc., what other lawbreaking will be amnestied? According to my colleague, Matt O’Brien, a former top official with the DHS agency charged with processing DACA applications, the program has been riddled with fraud since it started—Given the notoriously high acceptance-rates, this shouldn’t be surprising.

And awarding fraudsters will be even worse if do the same thing we did in 1986 and open the process up to new applications. When the dust settled following that amnesty, New York Times reporter Roberto Suro called it “one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetrated against the United States government.” Indeed, government sources and experts put the fraud-figure as high as 650,000—One of those frauds was Mahmud Abouhalima who would later go on to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993.

Other questions loom large. With amnesty, will we reach a brokered peace with La Raza, United We Dream, etc., or will they simply open up a new front elsewhere? For instance, why not apply amnesty to the immediate relatives of DACA aliens or to the illegal-alien parents covered by the rescinded DAPA program? After all, the “Don’t Tear Apart Families” placards waved by DACA aliens are just as applicable to them. Why not apply it to all aliens born before June 15, 1981 (DACA’s deadline birthyear)?

Could the rejection of legislative DACA present a huge opportunity for the Mexican state? Right now, Mexican “dreamers” (3/4’s of the DACA population) have an unprecedented opportunity to return to Mexico and reform it. The large majority’s adult, most have English, U.S. dollars in their pocket, a good amount of education and jobs skills, and an understanding of what a nation run by the rule of law looks like. Who could be better equipped to force change upon Mexico’s pilfering elite than they?

Such an infusion of energy into Mexico’s fatalistic and near-hopeless political atmosphere should be a welcome, even exhilarating, thought for progressives, Hispanic lobbies, etc. After all, treating DACA aliens like objects of humanitarian help will not fix the situation that pushed them here. In fact, it likely prolongs it. Just why do the Mexican authorities fight our own immigration laws so hard? Critics claim, it’s because of the “safety valve”-effect. By allowing millions of poor to simply get up and go, our porous borders act like a “safety valve” taking pressure off the Mexican elite to make much-needed domestic reforms. By taking protesters off the streets, the continued outflow works to maintain Mexico’s status quo.

And that status quo includes U.S.-based remittances. At 30 billion dollars per annum, remittances to Mexico allow the elite to ignore social spending obligations and divert public resources.

Besides their political energy, what about DACA aliens’ economic energy? Assuming it to be true, who needs it more? The U.S., which has a GDP-per-capita rate of $52,000? Or Mexico, which has a rate of only $10,000?—In reality, the Mexican rate’s even lower given the nation’s wealth being so heavily concentrated in people like New York Times-owner Carlos Slim.

Finally, there’s the real moral question, that of moral hazard. What an amnesty of DACA aliens will do is allow them to benefit from their parents’ decision to break the law. Imagining other contexts brings clarity to the question. When a poor person robs a bank, do we let their kids keep the money just because they’ve become accustomed to the newfound wealth? After all, the kids didn’t rob the bank.

Allowing people to gain an advantage by breaking the law is what happens in countries DACA aliens left. It’s what characterizes societies that prohibit the economic opportunity DACA aliens apparently “dream” of. Let’s work to ensure the rule of law reigns on both sides of the border by restoring immigration law and order here, stopping the endless cycles of amnesty, and committing to an orderly and well-supported return/reform model that’ll make both our countries great.

Dale Wilcox is the Executive Director & General Counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (irli.org), a public interest law firm that advocates for immigration policies that serve the national interest.

[1] From page 74 of the Commission’s report: “Not to be neglected in considering the “pull” forces of the United States is the encouragement to the wetback traffic that is inherent in the legalization of wetbacks under the Mexican-United States International Agreement.” Goes on to refer to amnesties performed in 1947, 1949, and 1950.

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