Less than 24 hours after Iowa law enforcement announced that Mollie Tibbetts was murdered by an illegal alien, the Cato Institute was pumping out disjointed apologetics for immigration violators. Ostensibly educating us about the goodness inherent in all illegal aliens, Cato published a piece called, “The Murder of Mollie Tibbetts and Illegal Immigrant Crime: The Facts.”

Aside from distastefully poor timing, Cato’s pompously titled piece is long on unsupported opinion but woefully light on facts. Cato analyst Alex Nowrasteh claims that politicians and border security advocates are, “using the tragic murder of Tibbetts as an argument for increasing the enforcement of immigration laws against people who aren’t charged with murder or any real crime except violating international labor market regulations (immigration laws).”  Because, “They want to convict all illegal immigrants of this murder in the court of public opinion, not just the actual murderer.”

But, the fact is, Americans don’t need an argument for enforcing our immigration laws against illegal aliens. Pursuant to federal statute, Improper Entry by an Alien and Willful Failure of an Alien to Register are both crimes. And the court of public opinion has been very clear about its stance on immigration law-breakers, it wants them deported. Witness the triumph of Donald Trump, who ran for president on an immigration enforcement platform.

The real problem with our immigration laws isn’t, as Mr. Nowrasteh claims, that “Public policy must be based on data and trends, not on horrific anecdotes like the murder of Mollie Tibbets.” Rather, it is that far too many politicians and policy analysts are willing to trivialize immigration violations in order to placate constituents who believe that American businesses should be able to profit by exploiting the illegal alien labor pool. Mr. Nowrasteh exposes his agenda when he derides U.S. immigration law as a set of “international labor market regulations.”

That is a fundamental mischaracterization of our immigration legislation. In reality, the Immigration and Nationality Act represents a clear boundary line indicating where the obligation to comply with all American laws begins and ends. As the Supreme Court eloquently put it, over a century ago, in Ekiu v. United States:

It is an accepted maxim of international law that every sovereign nation has the power, as inherent in sovereignty and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within its dominions or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe.

Unfortunately, Cato’s callous dismissal of Ms.Tibbetts’ murder as a “horrific anecdote” is all too typical of its standard approach to public policy questions. Cato has a bad habit of turning every public policy issue into a mathematically-expressed economics problem, then ignoring even the most legitimate moral and public order concerns if someone derives a profit from the activity in question. However, Mollie Tibbetts was not a figure on a spreadsheet and her life should not be viewed in terms of profit and loss.

Open-borders libertarians consistently tell us that rigorous immigration enforcement might lead to the deportation of a potential neurosurgeon or the future formulator of a cure for cancer. But notably absent from Cato’s probabilistic, market-based arguments is any calculation of what society loses every time an illegal alien murders a productive member of society, like Kate Steinle or Mollie Tibbetts.

Matt O'Brien writes for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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