Credibility Gap

The president still doesn't get it.

If his amnesty speech yesterday in El Paso is any indication, he really believes that the call for "enforcement first" is merely a ploy to avoid amnesty. His crack about alligators suggests he thinks that he's done all the enforcement that can reasonably be expected of him and that further opposition to amnesty is simple demagoguery.

But the problem with believing your own press releases is that it obscures reality. A very large share of the public, and even specifically of immigration hawks, would accept (with varying degrees of reluctance) an amnesty for long-settled, non-violent illegal immigrants with U.S.–born children — but only if they were confident that the rest would be thrown out and we wouldn't end up with another 11 million illegals a few years from now.

This is why credibility on enforcement is so politically important in this debate. And the Obama administration doesn't have it — it's filled with people who wrinkle their noses in disgust at the very idea of immigration enforcement, and loathe the gun-clinging yahoos all the more for making them do it. The president brandished as great achievements developments which are, at best, modest advances, whether in deportation or border security or worksite enforcement.

Even people who don't follow the immigration issue closely understand intuitively that as soon as the amnesty component of any future "comprehensive immigration reform" package was completed, the promised enforcement would vanish, just as we saw after the last amnesty in 1986. Ironically, the only path to amnesty is through enforcement — tough, sustained, institutionalized enforcement. This is certainly not what Obama has delivered over the past two years, and if he thinks otherwise, that's all the more reason not to trust him with an amnesty.