Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray of San Diego County talked with me Tuesday morning about prospects for immigration reform in Washington. The congressman argued that establishing a path to regularizing the status of people here illegally would only entice more people to cross the border into the U. S.
Representative Bilbray cited the 1986 amnesty program as a failure, saying numerous promises to follow the legislation with full enforcement never happened. He says that the future prospect of amnesty is one of the motivations for immigrants to come here illegally.
The question, then, is what to do with the millions here illegally. Mr. Bilbray called for mandatory use of E-verify in the workplace, coupled with strict enforcement. He contends that as jobs dry up for illegal immigrants, they'll be forced to return to their countries of origin.
For younger workers without children that's probably true. Many workers already go back-and-forth between the U. S. and their original countries. However, millions are here with kids and extended families. They're not very mobile. What will they do?
I suspect that many of those illegal immigrant stories would be told in TV and newspaper stories and that public sympathy for such families would grow. It's the same thing that would happen with mass deportations. Couple that public shift with continued political pressure from employers, and it's hard for me to imagine that strict enforcement would continue. Then we're back where we were.
What do you think? How should the country handle illegal immigrant families?