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Charles Krauthammer's op-ed column on immigration reform.
True, they must await the "enforcement trigger" before they can apply for green cards. But they already have the functional equivalent of a green card. They got that on Day One. That matters more than anything to those living here illegally: the right to continue living here without fear. Forever. That's the very essence of amnesty.
And all this happens before the first scintilla of extra enforcement takes place. Which brings us to the second problem. What does this extra enforcement consist of?
When I heard McCain talk about (among other measures) new high-tech border control with advanced radar and drones, my heart sank. We've been here. In 2006, Congress threw a ton of money at a high-tech fence. Five years, $1 billion, and a pathetic 53 (out of 2,000) miles later, Janet Napolitano canceled the program as a complete failure.
That was predictable. And some of us predicting it were pleading for something infinitely cheaper and simpler: a prosaic, low-tech fence. Of the kind built near San Diego (triple-layered) that resulted in an astounding 92 percent drop in apprehensions. Like the Israeli fence built along the West Bank that has reduced terrorist infiltration to practically zero.
There's a reason people have been building fences for, oh, 5,000 years. They work.
The current Senate proposal must be improved, either in the Senate or by the House. It's not complicated. Build the damn fence. And give "probationary legal status" to the 11 million--not on the day the bill is signed but on the day the fence is completed. Have the president drive in the golden fence post at Promontory Point II and sign the amnesty right there. Great photo op.
With the sequencing--and thus the incentives--so properly aligned, I assure you the fence will go up with amazing alacrity. As it should. The point is not to punish anyone or to make things harder, but to ensure we don't have to do this again--agonizing over the next 11 million cruelly living here in the shadows.
I know many Republicans are coming over to immigration reform because of the 2012 election results. Fine. I've been advocating this for seven years ("First a wall--then amnesty," April 7, 2006). Welcome aboard.
But remember: Enforcement followed by legalization is not just the political thing to do. It is the right thing to do--an act both of national generosity and national interest. It has long been the best answer to the immigration conundrum. It remains so.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist