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"The [immigration] system is broken"

A popular and misleading talking point from supporters of comprehensive immigration reform goes something like this quote from Barack Obama:

"We have a broken immigration system. Nobody denies it."

That's misleading because the problem isn't with our rules and laws so much as the fact that they aren't enforced. There wouldn't be a problem with illegal immigration if politicians would simply allow our laws to be enforced. If you consider "system" to including not just our laws but the enforcement of those laws, then the statement isn't misleading. However, since it's almost always said in the context of supporting changes to those laws, it is misleading.

This talking point is like a shady mechanic removing all the spark plugs from your car's engine and then saying, "see, your engine doesn't work."

Last modified Jul 16, 2010
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

Questions for Michelle Obama about immigration - 06/18/14

Taking a break from her many other tasks, Michelle Obama spoke [1] at a naturalization ceremony earlier today and, as many other past and present political figures have done, used the opportunity to promote comprehensive immigration reform. There are a few questions based on her remarks below, and I strongly urge you to try to get answers. That can be done when she participates in online forums...

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... "just how badly our immigration system is broken". It's those like Oliver who are responsible for the situation in the first place; see the link. Oliver is engaging in false compassion: wringing his hands over a situation those like him helped cause. Oliver is also using verbatim a stock talking point, the misleading claim that the system is broken. See all those links for detailed explanations...

Rand Paul continues to mislead on immigration (amnesty,Bloomberg, Norquist) - 06/12/14

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Aaron Schock's treacherous, out-of-touch immigration comments - 04/22/14

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GOP "Standards for Immigration Reform": how it's wrong, how it won't work, what you can do - 01/30/14

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Scott Walker supports mass immigration, probably including amnesty - 11/20/13

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, USCCB mislead about immigration in letter to John Boehner - 11/08/13

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Jason Stverak misleads about immigration and the free market (Franklin Center, Koch, Krieble) - 10/04/13

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American Bar Association to stress immigration reform; why? (amnesty, James Silkenat) - 09/18/13

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Questions for Kelly Ayotte about comprehensive immigration reform (amnesty, New Hampshire) - 06/09/13

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How is Gene Sperling misleading on economics and immigration reform? - 03/13/13

... [1]: America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country. We must come together on a plan that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers who came here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is...

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Mitt Romney wimps out on immigration, again (Univision, "our system isn't to deport people") - 09/20/12

... (see the link). * He used the system is broken and secure the border canards. * At the end, he seems to be implying that one component of reducing illegal immigration is to increase legal immigration, an idea that's delusional. Search for "five billion" in the post about Paul Ryan on immigration. From the point of view of most non-elite Americans, the only bright spots were Romney's use of the...

Elizabeth Emken on immigration: weak, GOP boilerplate (amnesty, California, Feinstein) - 09/10/12

... they're wrong: Everyone knows this system is broken. Our U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has been in office for twenty years and she has done nothing to fix this problem. We cannot fault those who are drawn by the opportunity and promise of the American way of life. They are acting in their families' best interest, as we would in the same situation. But we must approach the illegal immigration...

Democratic Party 2012 platform on immigration: why it's wrong - 09/04/12

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Paul Ryan is bad on immigration, find out how much (Mitt Romney VP pick) - 08/11/12

... STRIVE Act posts. * Ryan uses the system is broken, nation of immigrants, and secure the border talking points; see the links. * Ryan says "[t]here are deeply held views on all sides of this issue, and rightly so." The immigration views of Gil Cedillo, Antonio Villaraigosa, American Civil Liberties Union, MALDEF, and so on aren't completely wrong; for instance, they and I might agree that we...

Rob Portman on immigration and trade (possible Mitt Romney VP candidate) - 04/06/12

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Mitt Romney now pandering on immigration reform - 04/03/12

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Tom Vilsack promotes illegal activity, uses bogus "crops rotting" line - 02/24/12

... it off, Vilsack also used the system is broken canard, see the link. The problem isn't so much that our immigration laws themselves are flawed, it's that those laws aren't enforced due to corrupt politicians such as Vilsack. See Tom Vilsack, immigration agriculture, and Department of Agriculture for more.

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... that the current immigration system is broken and badly needs mending. In the absence of federal legislation providing a coherent immigration policy, states have taken it upon themselves to enforce their way to a solution. Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama recently took matters into their own hands by passing laws designed to criminalize virtually all activity engaged in by undocumented immigrants....

10 things Obama's "Blueprint for an America Built to Last" doesn't tell you (immigration) - 02/01/12

... recognizes that our immigration system is broken, and is committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform to build a 21st century immigration system that meets our nation's economic and security needs. The President's vision for reform includes continuing to make border security a federal responsibility; holding accountable businesses that break the law by exploiting undocumented workers;...

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... other hacks have done - used the system is broken canard [2]. 5. Vilsack also ran down the eVerify program, at least as a standalone solutiion, saying: "The E-Verify system creates a potential difficulty, particularly for smaller businesses... That's because they'd have to invest resources in equipment and training to participate." Vilsack was accompanied by Bob Stallman, the president of the...

Obama misleads about immigration yet again (May 10, 2011 El Paso version) - 05/10/11

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Obama misleads on immigration at Facebook; Zuckerberg and incompetent/corrupt GOP, Teaparty leaders help - 04/21/11

... fundamentally broken. (NOTE: see system is broken. And, those at the meeting were not a "broad cross-section" but only represented a small number of Americans). For those of you who aren’t familiar, the DREAM Act is -- deals with a particular portion of the population, kids who were brought here when they were young by their parents; their parents might have come here illegally -- the kids didn'...

Utah Compact would encourage illegal immigration (Mark Shurtleff, Chamber, Sutherland, Catholic Church) - 11/11/10

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Obama thinks illegal aliens are Americans; forgets about massive unemployment; promotes massive immigration - 09/29/10

... system for that, a variant of system is broken. He then states we need to "affirm our immigrant traditions"; see immigration tradition fallacy. He then states, "yes, let's secure our borders"; see secure the border. Making a false claim about policy, he thinks if we made legal immigration easier we'd reduce illegal immigration. He ignores the fact that there are about 6.5 billion people outside...

Obama immigration speech, July 1, 2010 - 07/01/10

... seems fundamentally broken. See system is broken for why the last bit is misleading. Of course, the tensions around immigration are not new. On the one hand, we’ve always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants -- a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s precepts. Indeed, it is this constant flow of immigrants that helped to make America what it is. The scientific...

Obama slams Arizona immigration law at press conference with Mexico's president - 05/19/10

Video of the first part of Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon of Mexico speaking earlier today at the White House is at peekURL.com/vogmji4 and the second part is at peekURL.com/vcwo6we Obama issues his stock speech in support of comprehensive immigration reform; see this for some of the components. Then, he says:

Millions unemployed, Harry Reid wants several million new legal workers to compete against Americans (fairly) - 05/11/10

... Reid offers "Our immigration system is broken, and only bipartisan work will fix it" (link). If you've already read a few editorials in support of comprehensive immigration reform, everything he says will be very familiar, right down to his use of trite talking points like system is broken, secure the border, immigration line, and the (more rare) immigration wage floor. However, American workers...

Doug Hoffman might be weak on immigration; do his supporters know he might cost them money? - 10/28/09

... answer is the standard (and false) system is broken line used by hacks from San Diego to Lake Champlain; see the link for more. The second sentence is a false choice: few people are calling to "stop all immigration", and even those who are only want a moratorium and not a permanent cessation. The final sentence is almost assuredly code for some sort of guest workers program and probably is code...

Immigration Policy Ctr: U.S. lost Olympic Games bid due to "anti-visitor policy", "broken immigration system" - 10/02/09

... to Chicago is absurd. 2. The system is broken canard and the rest aren't usually used for issues relating to tourism but for actual immigrants (and illegal aliens); the IPC is repurposing it for their argument (such as it is) or just has it as a macro. UPDATE: This story has also spread to other supporters of massive/illegal immigration, and it appears to have started at least in the MSM with...

Obama puts off immigration "reform" until 2010 at SPP summit - 08/10/09

Barack Obama is continuing a proud George W Bush tradition: holding a "North American Leaders Summit" with the leaders of Mexico and Canada as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP.gov) effort. In a Feb. 2008 editorial that apparently no one else read, Obama promised to continue that Bush effort. And, in a move that his allies in far-left and racial power groups probably won't like...

Michael Dukakis mindlessly spouts massive immigration talking points (Michael Bendetson) - 05/24/09

... enforce the laws, but... * the system is broken * false choice offered between mass deportations (over whatever time frame) and amnesty, thus a failure to acknowledge attrition * failure to note that comprehensive immigration reform will be an amnesty for various reasons but mostly because that's how it will be perceived by potential illegal aliens * enforce the laws, but... (repeat performance...

Obama will bring back amnesty this fall (immigration "reform"). What you can do about it. - 04/08/09

... acknowledged to be broken"; see system is broken for other examples of that being used. The answer to both of those stock talking points is the same: amnesty won't fix the problems, which boil down to politicians being too corrupt to simply enforce our current, highly-enforceable laws. And, consider this incredibly lame talking point: Administration officials said that Mr. Obama's plan would not...

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand immigration stance: tough or just for show? - 01/23/09

... comments follows: Our immigration system is broken and hard-working Americans often bear the brunt of the federal government’s failure to secure our borders and provide adequate protections for the American worker and the shrinking American Middle Class. I believe the first step to fixing our immigration system is to stop the flow of illegal immigration. This can be accomplished by securing the...