Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Let's not get too excited about Michael Chertoff's announcement that he is putting an end to the 'catch and release' policy for illegal aliens caught trying to get into the country... even though LaShawn says she's giving him the benefit of the doubt...

It's not going to make a difference...

People are sneaking into this country because they've determined the benefits of being in the United States outweigh any costs they may incur trying to get in and sending the ones who get caught back to where they started their journey won't do anything to really tilt the equation to the point where it is no longer worth their while to make the effort to get themselves in.

The only approach that will work is to cut down on the demand-side for illegal immigration. If society were truly concerned about illegal immigration we would (1) beef up enforcement to the point where it was extremely unlikely that anyone hiring an illegal alien could escape detection, and (2) those caught would be hit with penalties so draconian that nobody in their right mind would dare run the risk of hiring illegals.

And of course, society isn't willing to do that.... any of that. We're not willing to give the INS carte blanche to demand papers establishing that one is in the country legitimately. We're not willing to impose severe penalties on those hiring illegals (for example, taking away somebody's house if they're caught hiring an illegal day care worker). We're not willing to pay the higher prices that would result from eliminating a source of low-cost labor. We're not willing to be called racist for the targeted enforcement efforts that would be needed to enforce the law.

So, in my opinion, Chertoff is focusing on an immaterial aspect of the immigration process, in the hopes of convincing people that government is working on the problem. I wonder if we're as stupid as he must think we are.

And, for those focusing on the national security aspects of border security, Chertoff's proposal does nothing to improve the situation there either. As best I can tell, Chertoff is only focusing on what we do with people that are caught.... and not on how to improve the odds that people can be caught before they get in and are able to blend into the crowd. What difference will it make to a terrorist who is trying to sneak into the country if he is caught, taken back to Point X and then has to start over? Are our enemies so easily swayed from attacking us that we ought to expect them to give up?

UPDATE: Jon Henke has some commentary worth reading...