Yesterday, the Boston Globe wrote an editorial that seems to come out against New York Governor Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Their main argument against his three-tiered plan (one for citizens and legal residents, one good enough to gain entry into Canada, and the third a lower-level one only good as ID in New York State) is that it will become a de facto way of identifying illegal aliens, as anyone who qualifies for the first two would most likely avoid the third. This would "stigmatize" the bearers of that ID, and that is BAD.
My first idea was to cut and paste the editorial, then find and replace every instance of "undocumented" with "illegal." (For the record, there is one use of "illegal aliens" and one of "illegals," but four "undocumented immigrants," one "undocumented drivers," and one speculative "the formerly undocumented.") How differently would the piece read if it referred to "illegal aliens" throughout, along with "unlicensed drivers?"
But then another thought occurred to me. The conceit behind such programs, as I understand it, is to "separate the wheat from the chaff," to restrict law enforcement to those illegal aliens who are busily committing serious crimes and not go after those whose offenses are lesser -- being in the US without permission, identity theft, tax evasion, fraud, and all the other petty offenses necessary to continue living in the United States illegally.
But I was reminded that this was New York, and that brought to mind Rudy Giuliani's cleaning-up of New York City. One of the things he did that helped tremendously was he ordered his police to go after ALL crimes, not to just focus on the big crimes and let the lesser ones slide.
I wonder if the same sort of approach might help on the issue of illegal aliens. Simply institute an "illegal is illegal" policy, and see how that works.
I once read a novel that quoted Chairman Mao about insurgents -- they must swim like fish among the sea of peasants. The idea was that insurgents/terrorists/rebels should blend in with the civilian populace, invisible and drawing strength from them, until they strike -- and then fade back into the background.
The solution the character in the novel used was to "drain the pond" -- he rounded up whole groups of people and drove them across his borders into the nations of his neighbors. It was a win-win-win-win for him -- he got rid of dissidents and potential dissidents, weakened his neighbors as they had to care for the refugees, it provided him with a ready path for sending infiltrators and trouble-makers into those nations, and then had a ready-made justification for overthrowing those governments when they failed to take care of those people.
The plan, as executed by General Belewa, was grotesquely cruel and inhumane, and helped eventually to his defeat. But the core of the idea is solid -- so many of the serious criminals among the illegal aliens draw their support -- willingly or not -- from the general community of illegal aliens.
We already have a ready-made justification for draining the pond of illegal aliens -- they're here illegally, let's send them home. And as the water drops, the bigger fish will be exposed and end up flopping around, making them easier to find.
The beauty of the plan is that it isn't overly vulnerable to the "perfection fallacy" -- "there's no way we can deport all 12/15/20/30 million illegal aliens!" My normal response is "well, we certainly can't if we don't try." But in this case, we don't need to get rid of all of them -- just a significant portion ought to put a dent in the real problem ones. And it wouldn't require any new laws -- just enforcement of existing ones.
Which is why I don't expect it to go anywhere. It's too simple, too fair, too common-sensical. It's doomed as national policy.
(Update: book link fixed. Thanks, wolfwalker.)