by Lil Tuttle

Americans are a generous and compassionate people, and that makes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue particularly tough from a policy perspective. Our hearts go out to innocent young children who were illegally brought to – and have lived most of their lives in – the U.S., but our heads warn us that rewarding those who blatantly disregard our laws will only invite more such illegal acts in the future.

We’re actually faced with three conflicting emotions:

  • compassion for children,
  • revulsion at the illegal behavior that created the problem, and
  • a deep desire to prevent the problem from happening again in the future.

To address them, we need a policy structure that addresses three goals simultaneously.


The Trump administration has been scoffed at for wanting to ‘build a wall’ along the southern border to deter future illegal entry into the U.S. Yet the concept has far greater support than media and many policymakers want to admit.

In 1986, President Reagan signed an amnesty law for millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. on the promise that it was a one-time deal.  Policymakers didn’t keep their enforcement promises, so 30 years later the U.S. is faced once again with millions of illegals living and working in the shadows.  The same liberals who demanded amnesty in the name of compassion then are making the same plea again.

The old adage – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me – is in full play here.  Americans don’t like being made fools of, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that so many are digging in their heels against DACA.  This time around, they expect prevention first, and they don’t think a border wall is too much to ask.

Enforcement of current illegal immigration law

Federal, state and local enforcement of existing immigration law is a disgrace to a nation built upon the Rule of Law. The current administration has done a far better job in this area than the previous administration, but more can and must be done.

Our travel and student visa programs allow too many illegals to overstay their legal welcome.

Sanctuary cities that shield illegals from federal laws and deportation make a mockery of our laws and betray American citizens. The same is true of states that allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.  Shouldn’t there be consequences for state and local officials who openly obstruct national immigration laws?

The 1986 amnesty law required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status, and made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants knowingly. If illegals can’t find jobs in the U.S., they are not likely to stay.  Yet according to a recent CATO report’s calculations, a mere 729,595 employers – only about 9.5 percent of the 7.7 million private sector employers – participated in 2017 in the federal government’s E-Verify system to assure new hires were eligible to work in the U.S.  Why?

In a high-tech world that can instantly alert us to a questionable charge on our credit card or a front door left unlocked, these violations are inexcusable.

Reform of legal immigration law to eliminate chain migration

Current U.S. legal immigration law gives preference to ‘chain migration’, i.e., to people who have family ties in the U.S.   Legal residents in the U.S. can sponsor and bring in an unlimited number of foreign family members.

“In fact, 70 percent of all immigrant arrivals in recent decades are [family] chain migrants,” writes Steve Cortes, who is a son of an immigrant.

Today the majority of immigrant-headed households receive some form of government welfare assistance. This represents a totally untenable abuse of taxpayers and utterly upends the immigration realities faced by most of our ancestors who arrived in America expecting nothing more than an opportunity.

Cortes, a spokesman for the Hispanic 100, argues that America’s immigration policy “must be reformed to select immigrants based on merit, rather than family ties.”

Australia, Canada and New Zealand provide a blueprint for such reform. These nations recently adopted a merit-based system that gives preference to skilled migrants over unskilled ones, focusing on immigrants “with major STEM qualification” from “diversified source countries and skill levels.”

As a result, according to a study, “A Comparison of Skilled Migration Policy: Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” these nations are far better positioned to “attract and retain the ‘best’ global workers” as a result. This should be the objective of U.S. legal immigration policy as well.


Once prevention and enforcement are in place, Americans’ compassion for DACA children will likely follow in the form of a path to citizenship for them, if not for their parents and extended families.