Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Every sensible immigration policy has two objectives: (1) to regain control of our borders so that it is we who decide who enters, and (2) to find a way to normalize and legalize the situation of the 11 million illegals among us.

Start with the second. No one of good will wants to see these 11 million suffer. But the obvious problem is that legalization creates an enormous incentive for new illegals to come.

We say, of course, that this will be the very last, very final, never-again, we're-not-kidding-this-time amnesty. The problem is that we say exactly the same thing with every new reform. And everyone knows it's phony.

What do you think was said when in 1986 we passed the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform? It turned into the largest legalization program in American history -- nearly 3 million got permanent residency. And we are now back at it again with 11 million new illegals in our midst.

How can it be otherwise? We already have a river of people coming every day knowing they're going to be illegal and perhaps even exploited. They come nonetheless. The newest amnesty -- the ``earned legalization'' now being dangled in front of them by proposed Senate legislation -- can only increase the flow.

Those who think employer sanctions will control immigration are dreaming. Employer sanctions were the heart of Simpson-Mazzoli. They are not only useless, they are pernicious. They turn employers into enforcers of border control. That is the job of government, not landscapers.

The irony of this whole debate, which is bitterly splitting the country along partisan, geographic and ethnic lines, is that there is a silver bullet that would not just solve the problem but also create a national consensus behind it.

My proposition is the following: a vast number of Americans who oppose legalization and fear new waves of immigration would change their minds if we could radically reduce new -- i.e., future -- illegal immigration.

Forget employer sanctions. Build a barrier. It is simply ridiculous to say it cannot be done. If one fence won't do it, then build a second 100 yards behind it. And then build a road for patrols in between. Put cameras. Put sensors. Put out lots of patrols.

Can't be done? Israel's border fence has been extraordinarily successful in keeping out potential infiltrators who are far more determined than mere immigrants. Nor have very many North Koreans crossed into South Korea in the last 50 years.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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