By Joe Guzzardi
April 20, 2016
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about President Obama’s contentious plans to temporarily defer deportations and grant work permits to about five million illegal immigrants. During the deliberations on U.S. v. Texas, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who sides with the administration, said that “nearly 11 million unauthorized aliens are here in the shadows.”
To Sotomayor’s remark, “unauthorized aliens” – a term that does not exist in federal code – are hardly in the shadows. Thousands of them gathered outside the Supreme Court, chanting in Spanish, defying Congress, and demanding that they be given what they believe are their rights.
The strategy of assembling hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who proudly admit to and boast about their unlawful status is old hat in the immigration battle. More than a decade ago on May Day, 500,000 joined together in downtown Los Angeles to demand amnesty, and again in 2010, thousands assembled on the National Mall as part of the March for America to get the failed 2006 and 2007 amnesties back on the legislative calendar.
Then in 2013, thousands more held a rally in Washington to urge the passage of the Gang of Eight bill that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Illegal immigrants have also protested outside the White House, sat in the balcony during Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on the Gang of Eight bill, and have been invited guests to Obama’s State of the Union address.
If there’s one thing illegal immigrants are not, it’s in the shadows. While it’s doubtful that Sotomayor’s interpretation of illegal immigrants’ visibility will convince a potential fifth and deciding justice to hand the administration a victory, it shows the inherent dishonesty often found in the intense immigration debate.
But in the event that the court upholds Obama’s amnesty, history proves that the illegal immigration crisis will accelerate. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Although not every illegal immigrant took advantage, most did and thus put the nation’s unlawful population at effectively zero.
But while Reagan’s amnesty was being put together administratively, between 1987 and 1989, illegal immigration increased by 44 percent as new waves of border crossers came with the hope of being included in IRCA. According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, illegal immigration increased steadily from 3.2 million in 1986 to 12.4 million by 2007, a nearly four-fold rise. If the math stayed the same, today’s 12 million illegal immigrants would total 48 million by 2036.
A recent Pew Research report underlines the importance of enforcing immigration law. The report detailed how, assuming current trends continue, immigration and immigrants’ children will be “the key driver” for 82 percent of the nation’s population growth to a staggering 438 million by 2050. Pew stated that changes in immigration policy could alter the projections. Under a lower-immigration scenario, population would increase to 384 million; more immigration, 496 million. The 1986 IRCA conclusively demonstrated that amnesties beget more immigration, something Pew related directly to unsustainable population levels.
Most legal analysts predict that based on the justices’ questioning, a 4-4 vote is the probable outcome in U.S. v. Texas. A tie means that two lower court rulings that blocked Obama’s executive actions would be upheld. But as trial lawyers know all too well, when a case goes to court, anything can happen.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].