Those who bristle at the American people's refusal to support yet another mass amnesty for illegal immigrants frequently cite the need to bring them into the sunshine of the system in order to determine the true identities of the millions who, as the cliche has it, live in the shadows.
We're going to document the "undocumented," they say.
Background checks, we are told, will be conducted on all comers who step forward and essentially turn themselves in for having broken into the country. Once illegal immigrants are properly vetted and determined to have committed nothing more egregious than violating laws that govern American sovereignty, the logic goes, we'll all sleep easier.
This pitch is now universal in the movement that favors amnesty and mass immigration; from the ethnocentric Latino activists who see unchecked migration as the fast-track to demographic hegemony, to the corporatists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street Journal who represent those intent on importing indentured servants into their Company Town.
It is virtually certain that whichever of the senatorial triad of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain wins the White House this fall, they will make background checks a centerpiece of whatever security elements they claim to support.
Yet the prospect of actually conducting legitimate background checks on illegal immigrants is, in fact, the absolute pinnacle of the bald-faced lies that typifies the security assurances offered by the proponents of amnesty.
Journalists who have conducted investigative research into the background of individuals know that it is a time and resource intensive enterprise — one that can be incomplete if reliable data is lacking on a person. And these are background checks that are conducted into the lives of people who have legitimate, discernable footprints in our society: credit histories, educational backgrounds, property records, employment references, family history, civil litigation and, sometimes, criminal records.
The vital connective tissue that runs through a real background check is an authentic primary identification. An incorrect spelling of a name, the lack of a middle name, no date of birth or the absence of other corroborating identifiers can render any resulting profile of a person useless.
Even under the best of circumstances, it's not hard to miss something.
Thus, if researching established citizens can pose significant challenges, then putting together a factual background on people who use multiple aliases that are based on counterfeit documents obtained throughout a highly transitory life while in the United States illegally is all but impossible.
When considered on the scale of a national amnesty, it becomes a cynical joke.
Yet proponents of immigration reform insist that the tens of millions of illegal immigrants who will step forward to claim a chance at legalization can indeed have their histories adequately researched. Some have even suggested that background checks on illegal immigrants could be conducted in a similar fashion to the so-called instant background checks that are used to screen potential gun buyers.
This fiction slips into the public discourse so easily simply because too many reporters have become stenographers, transcribing comments by rote and declining to challenge or analytically explore such sweeping claims.
Fundamental questions about these proposed background checks remain unanswered because they are not asked: What agency will conduct them? What universe of source material will be researched? What is the scope of the search? What's the criterion for approval or denial of the immigrant's application? What is the budget for this mammoth undertaking? And here's the biggie that presidential candidates Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain are all loathe to answer: Will illegal immigrants whose background checks are flagged and applications for legalization denied face immediate deportation?
Should the American people be asked to believe that Mexico — the corruption-riddled narco-state that is responsible for seven out of every 10 illegal immigrants in the United States today — will provide adequate information about its citizens that may result in their deportation home? Or is it more likely the Mexican government will do whatever it takes to ensure they stay in America and continue wiring billions in hard cash back to Mexico?
At the end of the day, those pushing immigration reform would be better served if they just dispensed with the nonsense about background checks and admit that we have no way of knowing who these illegal immigrants really are, whether we legalize them or deport them.
Deporting them is to choose caution; legalizing them is to hope for the best.
Pretending we can determine just who they all really are is as phony as the Social Security numbers on file in the HR Departments at food processing plants, general contractor offices and hotel chains across the nation.
Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.