The next administration and Congress need to reach a compromise on immigration. The continuing battle on the status of illegal immigrants is leading to enormous political divisions and fueling the identity politics of multiculturalism on the both the left and right. For me the compromise must reflect four imperatives. First, it should recognize the reality that we cannot deport millions of people without turning ourselves into a temporary police state—harmful not only to illegal aliens but to our citizens. Second, it should make sure there is a substantial penalty for those who broke the law. Third, the compromise must secure the border of the United States against further such immigration on a massive scale and contain a trigger to verify that security has taken place before those who broke the law benefit from the compromise. Fourth, the compromise should make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to come to the nation, because welcoming more such immigrants will benefit America, not least by continuing our tradition of assimilating talent from overseas.
First, ultimately the compromise will have to provide a legalized status to many aliens who entered illegally so long as they have not violated other laws. Catching all those who have come here illegally is impractical. It would also require a law enforcement presence so heavy as to affect adversely many law abiding citizens, particularly those who share the ethnicity of immigrants who have come here illegally. Moreover, since many of those who came here illegally have had children born here who are citizens by virtue of the 14th amendment, mass deportations would result in the tearing asunder of children from parents.
Second, the legislation should make it clear that coming into America illegally was wrong. Fines will not prove adequate to make this point either expressively or practically.