Illegal Immigration and the Broken Windows Policy of Policing

The GOP establishment is enraged and terrified at the prospect of Donald Trump’s plan to return eleven million plus illegal aliens to their home countries. The obvious reason for this panic is the ensuing disruption that the sudden disappearance of 5% or more of the national workforce -- including that portion of the workforce that comes at Dollar Store prices -- would have on the businesses of those who donate substantial sums of money to the GOP.

Nevertheless, the troubadours of the elite order -- including Karl Rove, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bret Stephens and many others -- rarely make any reference to the vested interests of millionaire GOP donors when attacking Donald Trump. They do not discuss the financial and legal difficulties that the wealthy donor class will encounter if Trump follows through on his plans to reinstate respect for the nation’s immigration laws -- both at the border and within the U.S. (as so many Americans have been begging and pleading the government to do for a generation). They don’t even mention who these donors are, what businesses they own and how those businesses will be impacted (or, for that matter, which politicians depend on the money flowing from their coffers). Not surprisingly, the arguments which the sirens of the powerful employ against enforcing existing immigration law don’t mention business disruptions of amnesty of the donor class at all.

So how do GOP establishment pundits defend the sacred cow of “comprehensive immigration reform” (CIR)? On the whole, their arguments fall into three categories: moral, political and practical.

The moral argument alleges that deporting illegal aliens, who have been in the U.S. for years and have lived and worked under tacit acceptance by law enforcement officials, would be an act of cruelty -- as contrasted naturally with Jeb Bush’s “act of love” which drove them here in the first place. Such illegal aliens -- who supposedly will be unavoidably seized in Elian Gonzalez-like midnight raids and sent in dark, freezing boxcars back to Central America or China -- have not, according to this argument, benefited every day of their lives in America from our tolerance. The one-in-four unemployed young Black males of Detroit (for example) have not suffered any cruelty by the displacement of their jobs to foreigners who cut into the immigration line. The father who waits in line with a sick child at an emergency room filled with people who have no right to be in the country possesses no moral counter in the cruelty equation.

But sending illegal aliens back to their home countries is cruel.

The well-known political argument against immigration law enforcement states that the only way for Republicans to win the vote of Hispanic citizens is to demonstrate sympathy with the Latino experience in America by giving amnesty to their illegal cousins, uncles and neighbors. The GOP must, the argument goes, increase their capture of Hispanic votes from 27% with Romney in 2012 to over 44% in 2016 in order to hope to win the Presidency. Interestingly, this argument, which was recently extended by the pro-amnesty Latino Decisions polling firm, has been regularly parroted not only by the liberal media but by the GOP establishment, including the campaign of Marco Rubio.

To say this argument is shortsighted is an understatement. Within less than a generation after amnesty is enacted when the number of Hispanics voters doubles and when the bulk of the new arrivals are disproportionately the most impoverished, the least educated and, consequently the most reflexive adherents to statist, third world ideologies, what will the necessary proportion of votes be then?

And why, when this argument for the electoral viability of the Republican Party is most gaudily splashed on the pages of publications like The Daily Kos, The New York Times or in articles like “Donald Trump is Killing the Republican Party,”  in the Huffington Post by a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress, is this heartfelt advice not greeted with the suspicion that is the natural response to the enticement of the drug dealer? “Try a line. You’ll like it.”

The most telling testimony to the weakness of these first two arguments -- (a) that somehow, morally, we owe illegal aliens more than we have already allowed them, and (b) that electoral success for the GOP is possible only by winning over the left-leaning Hispanic voting block with promises of amnesty -- is that these arguments always serve as fallbacks to the principal argument against enforcing immigration law which is this: it’s impossible.

Pro-amnesty advocates on the left and right caricature any proposed attempt to enforce immigration law as “rounding up and deporting eleven million people.” The default position of Jeb Bush, for instance, when defending CIR amounts to what else are you going to do? Even the normally conservative Ben Carson in the second Republican debate suggested that he would consider amnesty for illegal aliens after the violent criminals had been deported, the sanctuary cities abolished and the border controlled.  He said that no one had shown him a believable process for expelling those still here.

It can be viewed as a perverse kind of progress, in fact, that in place of eye-rolling ridicule for those like Trump who propose sending illegal aliens home, there have been recent actual attempts to demonstrate that no, it’s not technically impossible…it will just cost a gazillion dollars. For example, the supposedly center-right American Action Forum calculated that deporting the illegal aliens currently in the country would cost at least $420B and would require 20 years. The AAF arrived at this figure essentially by adding the cost of arrest, prosecution, defense and appeal for each illegal alien deported in recent years and multiplying that number by 11 million.

The idea that anyone would attempt to enforce our immigration laws by simply scaling up court proceedings currently reserved for only felon illegal aliens is preposterous. And the fact that “studies” of this kind by an organization with open borders advocates like Elaine Chao and Norm Coleman on their board of trustees are not met with open derision is evidence of a deep complicity on the part of the mainstream media.

Nevertheless, it is easy to see why the claim that “enforcing our immigration laws is impossible” holds such sway with the American public. Perhaps a generation ago the industries in which illegal aliens found easy employment in the U.S. were limited largely to agriculture, gardening and day labor, in addition to being limited geographically to the southwestern states. Over time, however, as the number of illegal aliens has swelled, they have come to occupy and even dominate industries like roofing and drywall, hospitality and restaurants and other small businesses like automotive and custodial services. In the process, the American business community has essentially abandoned anything but the most perfunctory observance of the law. The typical American businessman now accepts a Social Security card with a number and name not as proof of legal residence of a job applicant but rather as plausible deniability of willful wrongdoing on their part.  

As the deluge has continued the rule of law has to a large extent broken down. It is critical to recognize (for the purposes of correcting the problem) that the breakdown of law has occurred not only at the southern border, but in the business communities across the country. The impetus for comprehensive immigration reform comes not so much from illegal aliens as from the businesses that employ them. The jeopardy which these businesses seek to avoid is not just an absence of cheap labor but a threat of prosecution for past wrongdoings. The secret of the amnesty movement is that it is the amnesty of the American business community that is at stake.

When respect for the law has been lost it is easy to conclude that the situation is hopeless. However a re-establishment of the respect for law in such cases is not unprecedented. Such chaos was the situation facing the new mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and his commissioner of police William Bratton in the early 90’s. The remedy at that time was a theory outlined in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which is now well known as the Broken Windows theory of policing. Such a model can also work in re-establishing the respect for immigration law in America.

When the Giuliani Administration began running in delinquents for jumping turnstiles in the subway, painting graffiti on trains and shaking down motorists with squeegees, the objection was raised: “are you going to jail 300,000 offenders for low level misdemeanors?” But broken windows policing was based on the maxim that law enforcement professionals mutter as they go to sleep: “5% enforcement means 95% compliance.” The same ideology can easily be applied to the business community and the illegal alien community in the United States today.

The policy would begin by President Trump (or President Cruz or President Carson) announcing that the time has come for those who are illegally in the U.S. to begin preparing to return to their home countries. At the same time the President would announce to businessmen who employ illegal aliens -- even in small businesses -- that they need to take a pencil and piece of paper, sit down with their spouse at the kitchen table and say: “Honey, we have to figure out how to run our business when we can’t hire illegal aliens anymore.”

Implementation of the policy would begin with a temporary grace period during which illegal aliens could apply for and immediately receive a temporary work certificate (a “yellow card”). Such a card would shield the illegal alien from deportation in exchange for their personal information (names, addresses, names of dependent family members, fingerprints), information about their employers’ names and addresses and a pledge to leave the country after a certain period of time -- perhaps six months or even longer.

Simultaneously, employers could shield themselves from prosecution by enrolling in E-Verify and running their worker rolls through the Social Security databases. The employers would need to provide names and addresses of employees who were flagged as “no matches” and could temporarily keep those employees so long as they had independently applied for a yellow card.

The penalty for an illegal alien being caught without a yellow card would be immediate deportation. The penalty for a manager employing illegal aliens (who might have already obtained yellow cards) without divulging it to the federal government would be incarceration.

Thus two crucial points about enforcing a long dormant immigration law are: (1) the key is to obtain complete information on who is in the country illegally and who is employing them, and (2) a transition period is essential during which those in violation of the law can adjust their behavior as they come to recognize that the law, henceforth, will be fully enforced. It is also worth mentioning that a transition period is also a reasonable display of compassion. If America has been complicit in the crimes of illegal aliens by failing for so long to enforce our immigration laws, then the price of a grace period in exchange for information and an ultimate end to this national disgrace is a small price to pay for getting our laws back.

One could imagine other ways to structure incentives so that employers and illegal aliens are more inclined to get with the law. One might even provide travel assistance for those here illegally back to their home countries (particularly if they agree to bring all dependents, even those born in America, back with them). A thousand dollar travel grant to every illegal alien in America would amount to a paltry $11B -- miniscule on the scale of the cost of illegal immigrants to the country every year.

It is crucial to note that the specific strategy and tactics of enforcing the law are not nearly so important as the mere commitment to enforce the law, no matter how long it might take. Further, from a practical point of view it is crucial that the policies for enforcing the law be encompassed entirely within the Executive Branch of government and require no new legislation (although clearly certain new laws -- such as explicitly permitting local law enforcement agencies to participate in the enforcement process, as an unpassed House Bill in 2006 proposed -- would be quite helpful).

It is also apparent to anyone who has given the issue any serious thought that the need for a wall on our southern border would be almost completely obviated by a policy of interior enforcement. When asked recently about the crisis in Calais of North African immigrants attempting to rush the Chunnel, Prime Minister David Cameron logically suggested that his government would accelerate efforts to deport those in England illegally already, thereby depriving the migrants of the confidence that the U.K. would be, for them, a “safe haven.” In the 21st Century, communication between, say, illegal immigrants in Framingham, Massachusetts and their relatives in Guatemala is instantaneous and thorough. Illegal immigration is a carefully calculated crime.

There can be little doubt that Donald Trump, at least -- whose life has been a success in large measure due to his ability to incentivize people to behave in a cooperative manner -- has thought through a plan of his own to get everyone back on-sides and re-establish that ephemeral respect for the law. No doubt as a New Yorker he is well aware of what New York City was before and after “Broken Windows.” He has said he can get all the illegal aliens back home in two years.

That seems to me about right.