About Arizona’s shiny new illegal immigration law, The New York Times offers that “opponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in the country in generations.” Okay, that’s one thing most of us can agree on. Another thing most of us can agree on is that rampant, unchecked illegal immigration is simply an unacceptable state of affairs. No one wants to live with the feeling that our borders and laws are that permeable. So far, so good.

Where the debate lies, where it always has lain, is in what to do about illegal immigration. It’s not that complicated. In the end, the only two solutions for any given immigrant are to become legal, or to get deported.

I understand the benefits when the end result is legal immigrant status. Our economy gains the benefit of inexpensive labor, holding down consumer product prices on a vast array of goods and services. Immigrants are brought inside the system, to pay a full share of taxes and participate fully in the country’s economic and political life. They buy stuff, creating jobs. Studies show that over an extended period of time, illegal immigrants pay more in taxes than they consume in government resources. These are all good things.

I also understand some of the concerns when a legal immigrant started off with an illegal immigration. That these people move unfairly past those who waited patiently and legally for legal immigrant status. That during their illegal status phase, they consume public resources in schools and hospitals without paying their fair share. So the idea of immigrating illegally, and then gaining legal status with impunity also is a non-starter for me.

But when a law specifies deportation as the sole solution, we lose the benefits cited above and get practically nothing in return. We lose this source of labor. Our prices go up. Other than righting the wrong of the act of illegal immigration, what is the benefit? Why do we want an army of millions of embittered deported Mexicans on the other side of the border, people with no prospects or economic options, and with a huge anti-American chip on their shoulder?

How is any of that good for America? Why not instead extract a proper price, a penalty, for the act of illegal immigration, and then extract the benefits of these people remaining here?

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