The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General somewhat overshadowed Homeland Security Secretary-designate and retired Marine Corps General John Kelly’s appearance before the DHS Committee. Sessions and Kelly, certain to be confirmed, will be the Trump administration’s two most crucial immigration law enforcement officials. As Sen. Sessions and General Kelly said during their testimonies, their jobs are to enforce the laws as written whether or not they agree with them.
In Gen. Kelly’s statements to the panel, he promised to rapidly deport illegal immigrants, and insisted that a porous border is the nation’s biggest threat. Gen. Kelly may prove a more formidable challenge to pro-immigration special interest groups than Sen. Sessions. But the two men working together to bring common sense back into the nation’s immigration policies will be a formidable team. The DHS Secretary-nominee promised to “faithfully execute the laws on the books,” specifically as they pertain to removing “foreign nationals without legal status.” The Obama administration came under Gen. Kelly’s fire for allowing illegal immigrants to serve in the military, cutting back on state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and using prosecutorial discretion to avoid deporting aliens.
Outcries from illegal immigrant advocacy groups that the nation’s millions of aliens cannot, as a practical matter, be deported is only partially true. DHS and DOJ have a vast array of tools at their disposal to, at a minimum, begin the process. The most efficient way to start is to resume long ago abandoned interior worksite enforcement, often called attrition through enforcement.
During the Obama administration, physical workplace enforcement has been in steep decline. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigative offices received funding to hire forensic accountants to perform employment paperwork audits which rarely resulted in consequence for illegal alien workers or their employers. As a rule, ICE agents rarely interview workers, much less arrest them.
The mere hint of workplace enforcement gives illegal immigrants the option between remaining, risking being arrested, detained and ultimately deported or returning voluntarily to their birth country. Taxpayers will not have to pay billions of dollars to fund adding more agents. When an illegal immigrant cannot find or keep a job in the United States, he’ll likely go home. To assure that illegal immigrants won’t get jobs, the Trump administration should immediately pass E-Verify. To make sure an alien doesn’t remain employed, the feds should impose heavy financial penalties on employers that violate laws which prohibit hiring unlawful immigrants. Over
time, interior enforcement would have three beneficial outcomes: (1) steadily reduce the $67 billion DHS budget, (2) make more jobs available for the 95 million Americans not in the labor force and (3) discourage further illegal immigration. Voluntary removal is already common. According to Pew Research, between 2009 and 2014, one million illegal immigrants returned to Mexico on their own volition.
Tougher DHS border and interior enforcement won’t happen overnight. But word that Sen. Sessions and Gen. Kelly are committed to upholding immigration laws will quickly travel worldwide. The knowledge that a new, stricter immigration approach will, in and of itself, become a deterrent to illegal entry.
A Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow, contact Joe at