Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is punitive a bad thing?

In the immigration debate we often hear that strict enforcement is punitive, that some politicians (mostly conservatives) just want to make life difficult for the “undocumented”. The logic goes something like this: Here is an illegal alien working at a Swift meatpacking plant. Sure, he stole the Social Security Number of a six year old, but he only did it so he could work.

He’s got a wife and two anchor babies at home. When the plant is raided, he is hauled off to a detention facility and prepared for deportation. The family now has no father, no provider. They aren’t even sure where he is. This is mean spirited. This is punitive.

I submit that being punitive is exactly the point. We need to enforce the law and send a message to the illegals and others with similar ideas that this is not a picnic; that we have laws and they will be enforced; that there are consequences to their actions. Lacking the political will to be punitive has created the problem in the first place.

This in not an original thought on my part. In fact, it was the recommendation of the 1994 Commission on Immigration Reform. Barbara Jordan, a great civil rights leader from Texas, was the chairman. Here’s a direct quote from the report:
“Serious problems undermine present immigration policies, their implementation, and their credibility: people who should get in find a cumbersome process that often impedes their entry; people who should not get in find it all too easy to enter; and people who are here without permission remain with impunity.”

How’s that for punitive? In 1994 they understood.

I like what ICE spokesman, Gail Montenegro said about this punitive act of separating families. She said, “We hear a lot that ICE is separating families and my response is that we don’t separate families. Families make decisions, including coming here illegally. These are the consequences. The parents have placed their families in this position.”

If we are going to be successful at keeping out future illegal aliens, we need to get over this fear of enforcing the law. Yes, we’re going to need to be punitive. Get over it folks; we’re not condemning them to die; we’re merely sending them back home.

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