The Lesser Cruelty on Immigration

The policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border, delivering them into a bureaucratic labyrinth while their fathers and mothers await trial or petition for asylum, is the wickedest thing the Trump administration has done so far — and you can tell exactly how wicked by observing how unwilling White House officials are to defend the policy on the merits.

.. the cruelty of separation was also deliberately chosen, in the hopes of reducing the number of families trying to make a dangerous border crossing by delivering the ones who get here into a child’s nightmare and a parent’s hell. It’s only since the cruelty has become palpable instead of theoretical that the Trump team has fallen back on the claims that their hands are tied, that they don’t wantto do this, but law and order requires it, what can you do?

.. Liberals hailed those amnesties while paying less attention to the consequences of the Dreamer amnesty in particular: It created the impression that kids brought to the United States illegally would soon gain legal status, which in turn helped drive a surge in children being sent north without their parents, overwhelming the Border Patrol and saddling the Obama White House with a problem that it ultimately passed along to President Trump.

.. it’s not just domestic politics and the (justifiable) fear of backlash; it’s also that a more generous immigration policy can easily end up requiring more enforcement to prevent a snowballing effect — because migrants are responsive to incentives established by receiving countries, not just conditions at home, and often (just ask Angela Merkel) the more you welcome the more will attempt to come.

.. If ICE were abolished tomorrow, President Kamala Harris would probably end up reinventing it.

.. This means that even liberals have an interest in finding the least-cruel way of cracking down. My own view, largely unchanged since the days when Mitt Romney was hooted at (including by a then pro-amnesty Donald Trump!) for mentioning “self-deportation,” is that workplace enforcement is that less-cruel way. Mandate some version of the E-Verify program, make it harder to hire illegal immigrants, and somewhat more people would leave voluntarily and somewhat fewer would arrive illegally in the first place, reducing the need for ICE raids and the incentives for sudden border surges.

E-Verify is harsh in its own way, since it locks many people who have been here a long time out of better-paying jobs. But with that harshness comes possible advantages for working-class Americans: E-Verify mandates “lead to better labor market outcomes among workers likely to compete with unauthorized immigrants,”

.. Right now neither party wants these mandates (E-Verify has fallen out of the proposed House immigration compromise), because both immigration activists and business interests hate them. But morally, E-Verify seems vastly preferable to the brutality of family separation and the harsher Obama-era measures that liberals have belatedly discovered.