Ari Fleischer: Legal immigration enriches America – Illegal immigration doesn’t

I’m a George W. Bush, pro-immigration reform Republican, the son of an immigrant and someone who welcomes legal immigrants to our country. But the caravan of roughly 7,000 would-be asylum seekers marching through Mexico toward the U.S. represents all that is wrong with our immigration system.

The people marching here would be better served if they applied to come to America legally. If they try to come here illegally they should not be let in.

One of the reasons the U.S. is attractive to immigrants is because we are a nation of laws. But that doesn’t mean that the first thing immigrants can do is break the law to get here. They can’t.

Nor can all immigrants claim refugee or asylum status. Most of those who come here from Mexico and Central America seek to escape poverty in their native countries. If everyone everywhere who lives in poverty marched into the United States, our immigration laws would become meaningless and our country would go broke.

The people marching here would be better served if they applied to come to America legally. If they try to come here illegally they should not be let in.

Escaping poverty is a natural desire, but it’s not an excuse to take advantage of America’s generosity or to stretch our laws to the breaking point.

Refugees are people who flee their homes due to war, persecution or violence. They need to legally visit a border entry point or an American consulate and request refugee status.

Immigrants are people who want to move to another country to improve their lives and they go through a long vetting process.

People who cross the border illegally, no matter what their background, are illegal aliens.

Many Democrats see all the people in the caravan as refugees, entitled to taxpayer-funded care. These Democrats are uncomfortable sending any foreigners coming to America back to their home countries, because too many Democrats have stopped making a moral distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

These Democrats contend that if any people from other countries want to enter the U.S., let them. If any foreigners seek to escape poverty, call them refugees and let them in.

But for those who seek to escape poverty by illegally entering the United States, who is going to pay for their health care once they get here?  Who is going to pay for their housing? Their food?  Where should they live?

Should all the estimated 7,000 people in the caravan be sent to a sanctuary city like San Francisco, where the federal government can tell leaders there that it’s up to them to provide for everyone’s needs?

Allowing all immigrant to call themselves refugees is like allowing all American to call themselves veterans of our armed forces, entitled to the benefits and privileges earned by veterans. Most Americans aren’t veterans and most immigrants aren’t refugees.

Our generosity as Americans is being taken advantage of. Our catch-and-release procedures have turned our laws into a game of tag. When people touch base in the United States, they’re safe and typically aren’t caught. That’s the practical reason so many come here illegally. Their relatives and friends have told them they can get away with it.

Immigration must not be a game. It’s a statement of who we are as a country and how we define citizenship based on the rule of law.

I still support a comprehensive modernization of our immigration laws. The Democrats should give President Trump a wall wherever our Border Patrol says one is needed. President Trump should let long-residing illegal immigrants who haven’t broken any additional laws to remain here, free from deportation.

As the son of an immigrant who came here legally, I know that legal immigration enriches us. Illegal immigration doesn’t.