A Policy Without Sowell: Gingrich on Immigration
In a Townhall column, Thomas Sowell criticizes Newt Gingrich for his remarks on immigration. Sowell’s “square one” is that it is not the purpose of laws to be humane.
Sowell tells how “Gingrich said that it would not be “humane” to deport someone who has been living and working here for years” then counters Gingrich with this:
“Let’s go back to square one. The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.”
He then quotes the Wall Street Journal saying, in an editorial, “No one honestly believes the government should or will mount a nationwide manhunt to deport millions of people”. Apparently the WSJ thinks such a mass deportation would be “psychotic”.
I agree with the WSJ on this point.
Sowell is a man I respect whose positions I generally agree with; but on this Sowell fails to make a sound case. Let’s start at Sowell’s staring point: “The purpose of … laws … is not to be either humane or inhumane …” (The full quote is above.) Perhaps law’s purpose is not “to be humane”; but “to be humane” is a prerequisite of good laws. What do we call a law that is inhumane? An unjust law. A bad law. If some immigration policy (say, for instance, one that requires mass deportation of millions) is inhumane, it is evil. After 37 years of Roe vs. Wade, have we conservatives not had enough of evil cloaking itself in the robes of “law”?
Sowell, starting badly, continues just as badly. He totally ignores the question of whether mass deportations on such a scale would be psychotic, instead he condemns sanctuary cities that bar police from reporting illegal immigrants that have committed murder, thus “virtually [putting] illegal aliens in a witness protection program”. Who is it, exactly, that wants murderers free on the streets? Sowell seems to have erected a straw man.
According to this column at ICIRR’s website, few deported immigrants are criminals and many deportations wreck homes:
“The numbers of people deported from the US has risen from 165,000 in FY 2002 to 392,000 in FY 2010—nearly 1,100 each day—with the overwhelming majority being workers with no criminal record. Many of the deportees have U.S. citizen spouses or children; roughly 4 million U.S. citizen children are at risk of losing a parent to deportation.”
The Washington Post argues that deportation would be economically self destructive:
“The report, A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie, shows that the effect of full-scale deportation of illegal immigrants in Arizona would be tantamount to a major recession, quite possibly more severe that that of 2008-09”
Sowell also posits that “There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here.” That begs the question whether Americans do. A Gallup poll from 2007 found that the American public overwhelmingly supported giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship other than mass deportation. Polls in 2009 show that most Americans support comprehensive immigration reform (I think that is what Sowell calls “amnesty”). Our legislative and executive branches of government seem to be opposed to mass deportation. It is most conservative pundits and a small proportion of Americans that are the ones who don’t want these people here. That’s not quite “the American people”.
I think the reality is different than the picture Sowell paints and I think that mass deportation will be:
- Destructive of families
- Ruinous, if not deadly, to some individuals
- Against the will of the American people
- Devastating to our economy
I well know that the supporting sources I quoted are left-leaning. I admit the embarrassment. But I think the cause of my embarrassment is that so few conservatives are willing to resist the knee-jerk reaction we see in Sowell’s column.
This Townhall column is not the best Sowell has written.
- Response to National Latino News Suggestion that GOP Immigration Plank Is Anti-Family (rightonlife.org)
- “GOP Is Anti-Family?”: Thoughtful Insights About Hispanic Concerns For Conservatives (greenmountainscribes.wordpress.com)