The question that continues to nag at everyone in the immigration debate is what to do with the 11-12 million illegal aliens who are already in the country. (Some estimates run that number up to as many as 30 million.)
Ted Cruz outlined his approach to this problem on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program on Monday night. It essentially involves voluntary self-repatriation.
Here’s what Cruz said:
Once we secure the border, you stop filling the boat that’s sinking, a number of people start to go home voluntarily every year to be with their families. That population will start shrinking. After that, you deport the criminal illegal aliens. The population continues to shrink. After that, you put in place strong E-verify so those here illegally can’t get jobs. The population continues to shrink. And then once we have finally demonstrated to the American people that we have secured the border, the problem’s solved. It’s not a promise from a politician, it’s not empty words, it’s been done. Then and only then, I think we should have a conversation with the American people about what we should do about whatever smaller population remains. But I don’t think we should start there at the front end. We should start with border security, and that’s what I’ll do as president.
This emphasis on an orderly, gradual voluntary process marks his approach as dramatically different than Donald “Round ‘em all up!” Trump.
I have felt from the beginning of the immigration debate that there are two fundamental steps that must be taken on immigration. The first is to build a double-layer border security fence along our entire southern border. Where such fences have in fact been built, as in the San Diego sector, they reduce illegal immigration by 90%. Fences work, which is why there is one around the White House.
Hungary has proven that border security fences work. Overwhelmed by a tsunami of illegal Muslim aliens, Hungarians hustled to erect a 109 mile long barbed wire fence along their entire border with both Serbia and Croatia. Problem solved. Hungary went from a flood of uninvited foreigners to virtually none, almost overnight. Illegal immigration became someone else’s problem.
And let no one say we can’t build this fence. We built the Empire State building in 17 months in the middle of the Great Depression. If we built that then, we can build a fence now.
The second step is to use E-Verify for everything. E-Verify to get a job, E-Verify to get subsidized housing, E-Verify to get food stamps, E-Verify to get welfare. E-Verify when someone seeks medical help at the local emergency room (they’ll get medical care, and ICE will get a call), E-Verify when a child is registered for school (the child will be enrolled, and ICE will get a call).
Will it work? Of course it will. President Eisenhower launched an aggressive deportation program on June 17, 1954, under the direction of retired Gen. Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Swing, a veteran of the 101st Airborne. It was designed to deal with what amounted to visa overstays, three million Mexicans who had come north for seasonal jobs in agriculture and decided not to return.
Swing sent 750 of his 1,075 agents northward on a sweep, with a goal of arresting 1,000 illegals a day. And Swing didn’t just release them at the border. He put them on trains and busses and transported them deep into the interior of Mexico. He put tens of thousands on two hired ships and sent them 500 miles south, from Port Isabel, Texas to Vera Cruz, Mexico.
By the end of July, 50,000 illegals had been arrested in two states, and - here’s the point to note - 488,000 fled the country of their own volition. By September, 80,000 had been arrested in Texas, and the flood of migration was completely reversed. Somewhere between half a million and 750,000 illegals left the Lone Star State all by themselves. In other words, ten times as many took themselves home as were deported.
Under Eisenhower’s program, illegal immigration plunged by 95%. The problem was solved through a combination of aggressive enforcement and voluntary repatriation.
Bottom line: While Eisenhower’s program would work today just as it did then, it’s unnecessary. A double layer security fence and aggressive enforcement of E-Verify would work just fine to stop the flood and reverse the immigration flow immediately through self-repatriation. But there’s only one way to find out for sure. A President Cruz just might be the one to show us how it’s done.