Fred LaSor: Who decides who can immigrate? |

Fred LaSor: Who decides who can immigrate?

Fred LaSor

Over the past decade our definition of immigration has evolved so that discussion over whether we should be building “the wall” has become a major incitement to start screaming and gesticulating wildly. We would be better off trying to have a calm and reasoned discussion about immigration and its possible reform.

In the first place, people born and raised in foreign countries don’t have a “right” to immigrate to the U.S. You can appeal to emotion, especially sympathy, for the millions of poor people who would fare better in Reno than in Rio de Janeiro, but our Constitution lists no such right and our lawmakers (not our judges) can unquestionably enact laws controlling who may come into our country and under what circumstances. We also have a right to build a wall if that’s the best way to enforce our law. If you’ve been to that border you know such a wall is hard: portions of the dividing line are rugged and part of the border is in the middle of a river.

We need to differentiate too between legal and illegal immigration. Watching talking heads on TV I’m constantly struck by the number of opinion makers who confuse the issue merely by dropping the word “illegal” when they talk about immigrants. It’s worth remembering there’s a distinction between immigrants who arrived with proper documentation and those who trekked through the desert in the dead of night. Rewarding the latter arrivals by allowing them to stay merely fosters law-breaking. And repeated warnings “you can’t deport 11 million people overnight” are straw men, not an invitation to an honest discussion.

But when we talk about illegal immigration, we’re not talking only about people who climb over the wall. We’re talking, in even larger numbers, about people who arrive on a legal visa and choose to stay after that visa expires. Or who arrive on a tourist visa but proceed to take a job. Since visa regulations are so poorly enforced, such offenders have a better than even chance they’ll live a full and productive life here. This could soon change, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions said recently the Department of Justice will be looking more closely at low-level violations like citations for driving under the influence.

Immigration law depends not only on ICE agents tracking people walking north, it’s also enforced every time an employer refuses to hire someone who can’t prove they can legally work in the U.S. An internet-based system called E-Verify “allows businesses to determine the eligibility of … employees to work in the United States,” according to their official web page. E-Verify isn’t as well used as it should be, however, particularly by employers who don’t want to comply with labor law and justify their law-breaking by saying they’re just looking for day-laborers and who are willing to pay cash with no further record. It’s clear the authorities are not yet motivated to pursue this violation of numerous laws, as it would be easy to catch both the illegal laborers and the people who hire them. You can see such workers around most every Home Depot in Southern California, often with the tools of their trade displayed to identify their particular skills.

A lot more can be said about immigration, but just understanding who can come, under what circumstances, and who decides that issue, is a good start. Every time you hear a TV talking head mixing legal and illegal arrivals, or a liberal saying everyone has a “right” to come, question their honesty or their knowledge.

Fred LaSor worked in the American Foreign Service for nearly 30 years and retired to Minden in 1997.