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KRAVITZ’S KORNER | The Strawman Illegal Immigration Argument

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The Strawman Illegal Immigration Argument

One of the most devious tactics employed by seasoned debaters is to give the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. Deploying this rhetorical strategy is precisely what many have done when it comes to illegal immigration. This tactic may be effective political theater, but it does nothing to address this important issue.

The argument is commonly made that the United States should not increase border security nor defund sanctuary cities because that contradicts the central notion that the United States is a nation comprised of immigrants. This is a prototypical example of a strawman argument. The issue of whether or not our nation is comprised of immigrants is not under dispute. Focusing on this subject changes the debate from one surrounding public policy to one surrounding cornerstone values of the Republic. More people are compelled by this emotional appeal regarding foundational principles than one regarding the relative merits of a policy.  

The policy being pushed by Congress and the White House is not an attack on our foundational values. It is also a sensible approach to this issue. It is important to recognize that increasing border security and ending sanctuary cities are measures to reduce illegal entry–not legal immigration. If policymakers want more Latino immigrants to enter the United States, they should push for increased legal immigration, instead of condoning illegal immigration. In other words, there is no correlation between America’s stance on illegal immigration and America’s stance on legal immigration.

Overlooking illegal migration across the southern border carries with it grave consequences. Illegal passage into the United States from Mexico is a dangerous journey that often escapes the public spotlight. According to a report by the International Organisation for Migration, over 6,000 people have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border from 2000-2014, many due to dehydration. If the United States can deter illegal immigration by enhancing border security and ceasing federal funding for sanctuary cities, the number of people who die attempting to penetrate the border and reap the benefits of unlawful entry can be heavily reduced.

Furthermore, enabling illegal immigration reduces the incentive for immigrants to adhere to U.S. immigration law. This creates a system in which people are encouraged to ditch the legal process and instead cross the border illegally, knowing that the government will treat them with impunity.

Giving local authorities the ability to refuse to enforce immigration laws (sanctuary cities) can have injurious consequences for society. The United States is a nation of laws, without which it does not function. If the United States allows local authorities to not enforce immigration laws, then by what authority does the national government have the power to institute any federal law? People who oppose current immigration laws should advocate to their congressional representatives to modify the current national law. But it is nonsensical to enable local areas to pick and choose, at their discretion, which federal laws to implement.

Another ignored consequence of having a weak southern border is drug trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over 1.5 million kilograms of illegal drugs were seized in 2009 along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many more kilograms of drugs cross undetected into the U.S. and feed America’s drug epidemic and related crime. Not all illegal immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico traffic drugs, but it is important to acknowledge and combat the enormous drug problem that exists on the border. This is why the United States should significantly bolster border security in order to reduce the inflow of drugs.

Finally, there is a considerable amount of hype that the United States will deport and uproot all illegal immigrants. This is not true. Only undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes will be subject to deportation, according to President Donald Trump’s executive order. Addressing the state of illegal immigration in the U.S., Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R.-Wis) recently stated that only criminal illegal immigrants will be deported and that he intends to ensure that the “rug doesn’t get pulled out from under” for D.A.C.A. families.

Taking a strong stance against illegal immigration is not an attack on the founding pillars of our society. On the contrary, opposing illegal immigration is about believing that, as a sovereign nation defined by its borders and laws, the United States has the right to enforce immigration laws. And through the enforcement of these laws, the United States can create a more robust immigration system.

2 comments

  • ” One of the most devious tactics employed by seasoned debaters is to give the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. ”

    The primary arguments around the immigration debate recognizes the need to revamp the legal framework for migration, be that for work migration or family reunification (See DACA for example..). The critique leveled against these policies aim directly to the polices as presented. Starting with a strawman…

    “It is important to recognize that increasing border security and ending sanctuary cities are measures to reduce illegal entry–not legal immigration.”

    These may be deterrents to immigration but they are critiqued for a) increasing militarizing the migration system; b) being highly inefficient in actually deterring illegal immigration (see any review of migration streams from the Americas or China); c) completely ignoring the unique socio-demographic challenges faced by immigrants of all statues. Ending the practice of sanctuary cities may function as a deterrent to illegal immigration (low penalty) but here the key critique is that it ignores the real social and citizenship issues at hand.

    Regarding whatever Mr Trump has conjured up – one really needs to think about institutional impacts of “only deporting serious criminals”. What does it mean for policing and government policies around citizenship, migration, rights.

  • You say “If the United States can deter illegal immigration by enhancing border security…the number of people who die attempting to penetrate the border and reap the benefits of unlawful entry can be heavily reduced.” However, on page 49 of the report you cited, the International Organisation for Migration attributes migrant deaths to increased border security. I suggest you revise your statement. Perhaps clarify what you mean by “enhanced border security” since traditional methods of doing so are causing the problem you claim they alleviate.

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