Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom

Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom

Last Friday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson broke into the headlines with his claim that unlawful immigrants had “earned the right to be citizens.” That’s a disturbing comment from one of the nation’s chief law enforcement officers.

Amnesty, whether it provides some form of legalization or full citizenship, rewards unlawful immigrants with the thing they desire most: legal status in the U.S.

Imagine if Johnson had said that smugglers had “earned the right” to keep and sell their smuggled goods. Of course such a statement would be ridiculous. DHS generally takes seriously its responsibility to catch smugglers at the border and confiscate their goods. Yet Johnson seems to think that he doesn’t have to fulfill his other responsibility to enforce our nation’s immigration laws.

Picking and choosing which laws to enforce weakens respect for the rule of law and encourages further law breaking. Since Congress started considering amnesty, more unlawful immigrants have been trying to cross the border with the hope that they will get amnesty, too. Even if Congress were to give amnesty, would future waves of unlawful immigrants also “earn” the right to citizenship? Johnson’s remarks certainly indicate that he thinks they would also deserve amnesty. If Congress were to act on such sentiments, the rule of law would be severely weakened.

Johnson’s comments highlight how profoundly unfair amnesty is. DHS is responsible for managing those who want to come to the U.S. legally through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Johnson should be well aware that there are currently 4.3 million people waiting in line to legally come to the U.S. Others have applied to come to the U.S. and were rejected, but instead of breaking the law and entering illegally, they respected U.S. law and stayed in their home countries. Why does Johnson think that those who broke U.S. law have earned the right to be citizens, but those waiting in line and those who are respecting U.S. law have earned nothing?

President Obama, Johnson, and Congress should not further unfair and harmful amnesty policies. Breaking the law should not earn the lawbreaker anything.