This seems to be the age of reform, and nowhere is that more evident than in the national discussion on immigration.
The late State Sen. Don East two years ago introduced legislation that would have given North Carolina law officials the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. His proposal came after similar laws were enacted in Arizona to deal with the burgeoning problem of illegal immigration to the United States, primarily by those utilizing the U.S.-Mexican border for entry to the nation.
We supported his measure then, and we still think it’s a good idea, although the U.S. Supreme Court has since effectively gutted the Arizona law.
The idea of immigration reform is a bit of a joke, given its history over the past 26 years. In 1986, the federal government approved sweeping changes in these laws. Among them were requirements that virtually all employers would be required to see, and document, identification which proves the new employee was a U.S. resident or legal immigrant.
In 1990, new reforms expanded immigration and put in provisions for what was to be more aggressive enforcement of the new laws.
In 1996, another reform was passed which required illegal immigrants in the country less than 365 days to be deported and then banned from re-entry or from making application for re-entry for three years.
All three of these reforms included one significant action and promises of more. The action was that many of those already in the country illegally were granted legal status, or given a pathway to legal status. The promise was new laws that would make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter and stay in the nation.
The fact that we’re now discussing another immigration reform bill aimed at giving legal status, or citizenship, to 11 million illegal immigrants tells us all we need to know about the effectiveness of those earlier reforms.
Now, President Barack Obama and those in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. are using the same trite phrases their predecessors used in 1986, 1990 and 1996. “Sweeping” reform, “path to citizenship” often crop up in their talks, with promises of stricter immigration laws to keep this from happening again.
Before rewriting federal laws again, we have a simple suggestion: enforce present rules, strictly and uniformly throughout the nation. If this were done, we suspect the need for “reforms” would quickly go away.