Unintended Consequences

Monday, 30 June 2014 15:44

The unintended consequence of signaling, by act and deed, that the immigration laws are not going to be enforced is that there will be more violations of those laws and more negative reaction to those violations.




Newtons third law of motion states: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However in complex systems it is not clear what that equal and opposite reaction will be.


At Rational Immigration Movement we favor allowing healthy amounts of immigration (about one percent of our population each year) to the USA. We support all initiatives that move us in that direction. We supported the President when he implemented DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) because it was time to stop making children suffer for the acts of there parents. We were wrong. It is now clear that DACA and the other extra-legislative acts of the President have created new problems as they have solved old ones.

The latest immigration “crisis” is the surge in the number of undocumented, underage arrivals being apprehended in South Texas. The increase is mostly children from Central America and is causing alarm on both sides of the immigration fault line. Pro immigration reform advocates explain the surge as a result of the terrible situation in the originating countries and anti immigrant activists blame lax border enforcement. It is really not a “crisis” when fifty or even a hundred thousand people a year arrive in a country of over three hundred million. But that is a discussion for another day.

The reality of what caused this surge is complicated but at least part of the blame has to fall on President Obama and his executive order creating DACA. DACA is an executive order incorporating much of the DREAM Act. The House had passed a DREAM Act in 2010 that would legalize the status of childhood arrivals under certain constraints. In late 2011 it failed to get enough votes in the Senate to pass. During the Summer of 2012 President Obama used an executive order to implement the basics of the DREAM Act and set in motion the chain of event that has culminated in perhaps a hundred thousand new undocumented, underage arrivals along the southern border.


Why did President Obama start DACA? Didn't he anticipate this outcome? First it appears to have been an act of kindness to the undocumented children. More cynically it appears to have been a way to ensure the votes of the Latinos in the November 2012 presidential elections. But there were unintended consequences. By this act and his order to the INS not to start deportation proceeding against anyone except criminal aliens the President signaled that he was not going to rigorously enforce current immigration laws. In the minds of people thinking about coming to the US this tipped the balance. If you can get to the border and you are not Mexican you won't be sent directly home, you will be paroled and once you are released and working and obeying all of the other laws you won't be deported. It is worth a try especially if you have relatives already in the US. And most of the new arrival do have relatives in the US.

And there is another unintended consequence: If the President goes against the will of Congress as expressed in the laws that they passed or didn't pass, it is unlikely that the Congress will pass new laws that the President favors. This scenario is now happening. Comprehensive Immigration Reform has not even been able to get a vote in the House. John Boehner has repeatedly said Republicans won’t act because Obama’s refusal to enforce the law proves he can’t be trusted to honor his end of any immigration compromise.