Victor Davis Hanson

President Barack Obama recently assured El Salvador that the United States would not deport more 200,000 Salvadorans residing illegally in the United States. As the election nears, and the president looks to court Hispanic voters, he also created a new position of "public advocate" for illegal immigrants. His duties would appear to be to advocate that millions circumvent, rather than follow, current federal law.

The administration has also said it will focus enforcement only on those who have committed crimes -- with the implicit understanding that it is no longer a crime to illegally enter and reside in the United States. In contrast, Obama has caricatured those supporting completion of a fence on the border as wanting to place alligators in the Rio Grande.

It is time that Americans revisit the issue and ponder very carefully the morality of entering the United States illegally.

True, American employers have welcomed in illegal aliens as a source of cheap labor. Employers were happy to pass the ensuing social costs on to taxpayers. To summarily deport those who have resided here for 20 years, obeyed the law, worked hard, stayed off public assistance and are now willing to pay a fine, demonstrate English proficiency and pass a citizenship test would be impracticable, callous and counterproductive.

Most, however, probably do not fit those reasonable criteria.

More importantly, we forget that the influx of millions of illegal aliens unfairly undercuts the wages of the working American poor, especially in times of high unemployment.

Crossing the border was also hardly a one-time "infraction." It was the beginning of serial unethical behavior, as illegal aliens on everyday forms and affidavits were not truthful about their immigration status.

The legal process of immigrating to America was reduced to a free-for-all rush to the border. Million of applicants abroad wait patiently, if not naively, in line to have their education, skills and capital resources evaluated. But they are punished with delay or rejection because they alone follow immigration law.

Billions of dollars in state and federal social services do not just help provide parity to illegal aliens, but also free them to send back about $50 billion in remittances to Latin America each year. That staggering sum also suggests that Mexico and other Latin American governments, as an element of national policy, quite cynically export human capital to gain U.S. dollars, rather than make the necessary economical, social and political reforms to keep their own at home.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.