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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Reject driver’s licenses for those here illegally

Events of recent days forming a gigantic triangle — with points in Clearwater, Virginia near Richmond and Arizona — remind us about certain immutable truths of humankind.

One of these is that if you want more of something, subsidize it.

This is not always a bad thing, especially when car dealers subsidize model-­year closeouts with rebates and low! low! interest rates.

Such events are brief and targeted and benefit a limited number of customers, and the risk is borne entirely by the company offering the deals.

Government subsidies, however, are a uniquely different animal. Freed from all but the vaguest sense of risk, government subsidies tend to grow and metastasize, creating constituencies that can move elections while leading with breathtaking frequency toward disaster. Our modern landscape is pockmarked by craters left by exploding bubbles inflated by government meddling.

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Now consider the cousin of financial subsidies, normalization. That is, the process of expanding what is not only acceptable but proper, while shrinking the sphere of what right-thinking people frown upon. Monday’s untimely demonstration in Clearwater by illegal immigrants seeking access to driver’s licenses is a perfect example.

Untimely? Yes. For a couple of reasons, at least.

The passel of undocumented citizen lobbyists touted their complaint even as Americans were learning our hopelessly porous southern border has lately been pounded by an unprecedented tsunami of illegal immigrant children from Central America, many, perhaps most, lured by the misapprehension (for now, anyway) that they qualify for President Obama’s 2-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, an attempt to achieve via autograph what has been bottled up by Congress: sanctuary for certain immigrants who entered the country illegally before the age of 16.

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Republicans (but not only Republicans) seized upon the revelation — Customs and Border Protection estimates unaccompanied children caught along the southern border will hit 90,000 this year and 150,000 in 2015 — as evidence of what we can expect when mere rumors of amnesty come before genuine border security.

“If the U.S. government fails to deliver adequate consequences to deter aliens from attempting to illegally enter the U.S.,” wrote Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald D. Vitiello, a member of the Obama administration, in a May 30 memo, “the result will be an even greater increase in the rate of recidivism and first-time illicit entries.”

DACA essentially normalized (in immigration-speak, “regularized”) the status of about 800,000 youthful illegal immigrants.

Those subsequently washing across the border either misunderstand the limits of the order or believe Obama could expand and extend his order to cover them.

Consider, then, the consequences of Florida lawmakers assuaging those pushing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Clearwater on Monday.

Not that their arguments lack merit. Some here illegally are going to drive no matter what, but a lack of a driver’s license keeps them from getting insurance.

Still, a license to drive suggests normal/regular status; because it also stands as government-­issued identification, it makes other complications go away.

Moreover, for those still weighing the benefits and risks of making a run for the border, it could be a scale-tipping subsidy-­by-other-means.

That’s where Tuesday’s primary result in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, about 900 miles away, arrives to put a tidy cinch on an otherwise chaotic sack.

David Brat, an economics professor and tea party favorite, stunned House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor on a platform of free market reforms, constitutional principles and, make no mistake, a firm rejection of amnesty.

Alert legislators will readily identify a message in the jigsaw puzzle assembled by these recent events.

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