Immigration Solved: Enforce Laws on Books

Bill Neinast

Emma Lazarus’ world was different from today as she was reared in New York during the 19th Century.

She was active in assisting newly arrived immigrants in the land of the free.  This experience led her into fundraising activities to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  To assist those efforts in 1883, she wrote “The New Colossus”: 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The entire poem is inscribed on a bronze table hanging inside Lady Liberty’s base, but it is the last five lines that are quoted most often.

The huddled masses memorialized by Lazarus came over in the cramped, cheap accommodations of steerage.  Some even arrived as indentured servants, bound in virtual slavery for years to the benefactor who had paid for their passage.

None, however, came seeking handouts.  They came, instead, for the freedom to earn a better living than they were allowed in their home countries.

If that attitude prevailed among the undocumented immigrants flooding our shores today, they might get a Lazarus welcome.

Unfortunately, however, in today’s world, a primary motive for a group of uninvited visitors is to live on public welfare.


Stories about all the free help from Uncle Sam have spread through Central and South America as quickly as the reports about the discharges for WWII deserters mentioned here last week.

The flood of AWOL WWII soldiers returning over the Rio Grande in the 1950s was dried up almost overnight by convicting just one of desertion.  The same can be done for those coming here to enjoy our public welfare system.

Here is something that could work along those lines.

First, strengthen  and enforce the laws on immigrant eligibility restrictions.  Simply restrict all welfare benefits to lawful permanent residents as defined in current law.

Word of the first few denials of benefits like Medicaid for births and infant care would spread “back home” overnight.  That could stop or slow to a trickle all the migrations north that were not already in progress and further reduce the number of anchor babies being born.

Then enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Section 274A of that act establishes heavy penalties on the employment of individuals without legal status.  

For example, employers can be fined under that law $375.00 to $3,500.00 per worker for first offenses.  The fines go up substantially for second and third offenses.

Imagine the effect on the numbers of undocumented immigrants remaining or coming to this country if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  officers were to start vigorously enforcing that law in all 50 states on the same day.


For starters, hotel and motel chains, food processing facilities, and construction companies would be fertile hunting grounds for the ICE agents.

Employment opportunities for undocumented immigrants would disappear.  With no welfare assistance or employment available, the only alternative for most of the immigrants already here would be a trudge back home with an unhappy message for those walking north.

So here’s the perspective.

Strengthening and enforcing the immigration laws already on the books would build a higher, thicker, more impregnable wall along the nation’s border than could be built with bricks and mortar.  In addition, this type of wall could make more money from the fines collected than the salaries of the ICE officers doing their job.

Beginning to enforce laws already in the books could make this the beginning of a Happy New Year.


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