"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance"

--James Madison--

"The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians"

--George Orwell--

False Binaries and Third Ways--Immigration Policy

The right is good at presenting false binary choices as a way to delegitmize opposing viewpoints:

On health care:
"Free enterprise" vs "Government takeover"

On fiscal policy:
"Fiscally responsible Republicans" vs "Tax and spend Democrats"

On immigration:
"Enforcement" vs "Open borders"

These are always presented as the only two possible positions. But life is full of nuance, and everyday living always presents you with more than two paths to solve any problem.
This is hardly unique to the right. They just happen to be the masters of the tactic. It happens on the left as well.

When it comes to discussing immigration policy, I've seen plenty of examples even on progressive blogs of people expressing this false binary choice. Anyone who advocates for anything other than strict enforcement of existing law, and indeed, the imposition of yet more restrictive laws is frequently called an "open borders type" or an "illegal lover" (although I usually only see that second description on conservative blogs and mixed forums).

In reality, though, nobody that I know who opposes draconian and heavy handed enforcement policies is actually advocating an "open borders" policy. It's a very rare position even among immigrant advocates.

Open borders are just as unworkable as are airtight borders. Open borders means no workable way to combat smuggling, no way to control immigration. Airtight borders means a commitment of money and manpower that no country with over 5000 miles of border would ever be able to meet.

If the East Germans couldn't even maintain an airtight border around one city, there is little hope for maintaining one around the world's third or fourth (depending on how you count) largest country by land area, and the third largest by population.
Priorities must be taken into consideration. But that doesn't mean "open borders", either. It just means that reality presents more than just a binary choice.
Mass deportation also has problems. But pointing that out does not mean that one is opposed to ever deporting anyone.

This is a country that has never had a national ID, a country where citizens have never been required to carry proof of citizenship. Somewhere around a third of Americans possess a passport, according to the State Department. The fact that even the State Department, which issues passports, can't tell you exactly how many Americans possess one is telling in and of itself.

State issued ID cards and driver's licenses are not proof of citizenship. You can get one over the counter in most states. in a matter of hours or even minutes. Your state asks for a birth certificate and a Social Security card. Most states check the SS card against an incomplete and flawed database. The Social Security system does a better job of keeping track of births and deaths than it used to, but the system wasn't designed to confirm citizenship.

Birth certificates are easily forged documents that have a description of a baby on them. Most of us aren't 21 inches and 6 pounds anymore. The documents aren't consistent from state to state, either (just ask President Obama).

When the State Department processes a passport application, they do more than this. Exactly what all, they won't say, but I know that it includes checking your birth certificate vs hospital records. It takes 6-10 weeks to process an application.

All of this is to point out that, if we are to have Arizona style enforcement that asks people for proof of citizenship, then we need to have some sort of national ID card to prevent US citizens from being deported. This can, and does, happen. The ACLU has documented dozens of cases. While Hispanic Americans (especially those who live near the Mexican border) and Puerto Ricans (who are US citizens) are most vulnerable, this has also happened to people of European and Asian descent as well.

The point of all of this is to show that there are more than two possible positions to be taken here. I really don't know anyone who takes a hard line towards either one of these false choices. But I have seen plenty of people defending their own position by ascribing their opposition to one or the other.

As with all matters of public policy, there are more than two possibilities. There is always a third way. Plus a fourth, and a fifth...

Immigration isn't the only matter where such false choices are presented, as I mentioned above. In the future, I will be examining others.