04/18/2014 10:25 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2014

It's Time for Commonsense Law Enforcement When Dealing With Deportations

Every once in a while a mainstream outlet will talk tough on immigration, apparently to prove that they are "balanced." It happened again this week when a USA Today editorial came out against presidential action on deportations because the president should not "ignore" the law. While we agree with USA Today that legislation is the ultimate solution, the assertion that anyone is asking the president to break the law is false, a straw man pure and simple.

First of all, it is as American as apple pie to challenge laws that are outdated, fundamentally flawed, or in violation of our values and interests as a nation. We saw that most recently in the successful fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. Second, the push for deportation relief is a matter of how, not if, to enforce the law. Choices are made every day on how to enforce every single law on the books. How many people do you think get pulled over for driving 56 mph in a 55 mph zone?

The reason police don't do that is that it is not practical. Law enforcement officials constantly engage in cost-benefit analysis as they go about their work. On Tax Day this week it was revealed that a person who makes more than $1 million per year is much more likely to get audited than someone who makes less than $200,000. While high earners may balk at this discrepancy, the logic in pursuing those who are more likely to cheat on a large scale is unassailable.

The logic of prioritizing immigration enforcement is also well-established in precedent. Indochinese boat people, Cubans and Soviet Jews in the Cold War, and dozens of other groups benefited from blanket stays of deportation in the past. Why not now?

It is true that our call for the president to act on deportations is based firmly on morality and compassion, but it is also a practical and logical request. Our immigration laws need to be enforced, but we should also focus on getting the biggest bang for our buck by deporting those who pose the greatest threat to our country's safety. And as for not wasting our country's time and resources on deporting people who would be eligible for a legalization program that is one vote away from becoming law, that isn't being soft--it's common sense.