The nativist Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is apoplectic over the Republican Party’s recently released “Pledge to America.” Apparently, the GOP’s professed commitment to “establish operational control of the border,” “strengthen visa security,” and “work with state and local officials to enforce our immigration laws” isn’t tough enough—or unrealistic enough—to meet FAIR’s high standards. In a shrill and fact-free press release, FAIR complains that immigration was “barely a blurb” in the Pledge, and then claims—without a shred of evidence—that pouring more money into worksite immigration enforcement would amount to a form of “economic stimulus” that would magically “protect American workers” and “raise wages.” FAIR’s press release concludes by presenting its own “serious and effective immigration plan,” which includes a laundry list of just about every costly, ineffective, and destructive immigration-enforcement policy which has ever been tried.

Not surprisingly, FAIR is particularly upset that the GOP’s Pledge to America didn’t explicitly oppose the creation of a legalization program for any of the 11 million or so unauthorized men, women, and children currently living in the United States. FAIR still clings to the hope that, despite two decades of failure, enforcement measures alone will somehow persuade all unauthorized immigrants to leave the country. Moreover, FAIR has chosen to ignore research which suggests that a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants would raise wages, increase tax revenue, and boost the U.S. economy—while a “deportation-only” approach to unauthorized immigration would lower wages, decrease tax revenue, and undermine the economy.

Similarly, FAIR studiously ignores the many flaws which plague its favorite immigration-enforcement measures. For instance, FAIR champions the mandatory, nation-wide use of the “E-Verify” electronic employment-verification system by which employers can check the work authorization of their employees. FAIR falsely claims that the system is “highly effective, easy, and free to use,” but—in reality—E-Verify is costly for small businesses and cannot identify counterfeit, stolen, or borrowed identity documents. Likewise, FAIR advocates expansion of the 287(g) program under which state and local police are enlisted to enforce federal immigration laws, but neglects to mention that the program imposes unfunded financial costs on localities and undermines public safety by diverting law-enforcement resources away from the investigation of serious crimes.

FAIR’s response to the GOP’s Pledge to America exemplifies its other-worldly approach to unauthorized immigration. FAIR pretends that immigration enforcement has never been attempted before, and that if we just try hard enough, unauthorized immigrants will go away. In the real world, however, the federal government has poured tens of billions of dollars into immigration enforcement and deported hundreds of thousands of people over the past two decades, but has succeeded mainly in tearing apart families and communities rather than significantly reducing unauthorized immigration. A reasonable observer might conclude from this that enforcement measures alone aren’t enough and that comprehensive reform of the immigration system is in order. But not FAIR…

Photo by bcostin.