- - Monday, December 4, 2017


All of us understand what it is like to procrastinate. As college students, we put off writing that final paper until the day it is due because we wanted to hang out with our friends. As parents, we’ve watched our children play video games while their list of unfinished chores grows longer. Many of us who work in front of computer screens every day will sometimes delay starting on a new assignment to see what’s happening on a favorite website or trending on Twitter.

Yes, we all know: when there’s real work to be done, we shouldn’t be wasting our time on lesser things. We do it anyway. And so, unfortunately, does Congress.

A prime example is immigration. President Trump and countless Republicans ran on fixing our immigration system. There is no shortage of ideas on how to get the job done: build a wall; build fences; use technology; add manpower; get help from state and local governments; pursue better enforcement policies; shift to more skill-based immigration; strengthen the refugee system, etc. These are the kind of policies that many successful candidates ran on in 2016.

But rather than turn these campaign promises into legislative action, Congress has procrastinated. Talk of border security, enforcement, and legal immigration legislation appears to be fading into the background. Instead of tackling these complex and difficult (yet very important) issues, Congress seems to be preparing to waste its time by first looking to pass an amnesty.

President Trump is wisely winding down the unconstitutional executive amnesty program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Yet, instead of taking serious action on the many parts of the immigration system that need fixing, Congress appears hell-bent on ignoring its responsibilities.

And this isn’t the first time. In 1986, Congress passed an amnesty for almost 3 million illegal immigrants. The lawmakers promised that it would be a one-time thing and that they would solve the illegal immigration problem. Instead, they procrastinated. The result: the U.S. now has 11-12 million illegal immigrants — far more than in 1986.

But policymakers and pundits are spinning the same lines they used back then. Amnesty must come first, they say — for the almost 700,000 illegal immigrants in the DACA program, or perhaps even millions of others. The complex issues surrounding immigration? We’ll tackle them later.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

Doing the wrong thing only makes things worse. Rewarding illegal immigration with amnesty creates an incentive for even more illegal immigration. It reinforces the notion that, if you come to the U.S. illegally, you will be allowed to stay.

In the case of an amnesty for DACA recipients, the U.S. will be encouraging more individuals to put their children in the hands of smugglers to cross the southern border. Not only is Congress ignoring the issues they promised to tackle, but they are making them worse.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Congress can quit procrastinating and do the right thing. Let congressional committees work through these complex issues and make improvements to border security, interior enforcement, and the legal immigration system.

Then, after these reforms are in place and proven effective, Congress can turn its attention to figuring out what to do with those still here illegally. That doesn’t mean a mass amnesty is the solution, but merely that the right time for that discussion is after the fundamental issues with our immigration system have been resolved.

Even proponents of amnesty should be able to agree that lawmakers should first fix what’s broken. Rather than amnesty after amnesty, the American people deserve an efficient and well-enforced immigration system.

It’s time for Congress to go to back to work.

David Inserra is a policy analyst specializing in homeland security issues in The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.

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