Immigration Confusion


Although overtaken by recent events (North Korea, the Middle East), the immigration crisis remains America's most critical issue for in it lie the seeds of our undoing - an implosion from within. At its core, it asks a fundamental question - what kind of nation will we be? A multiethnic and diverse polity unified by a common American culture and language or an ever increasingly divided bi-lingual, bi-cultural state. And the chasm between political elites and voters could not be wider.


As witnessed by the so called "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act" passed recently by the Senate in what can only be described as a moment of insanity, an odd coalition of Republican blue bloods and Democrats, supported by Bush, business interests, and separatist groups, have delivered a bill that would, if ratified, open up the floodgates - and thereby drive a stake through the heart of this nation. This, despite the overwhelming public sentiment in favor of curtailing legal immigration and ending illegal immigration altogether through tough border enforcement alone - minus any bogus amnesty and guest worker plans that would only serve to deepen the calamity.


Robert Rector, of the Heritage Foundation, in a now oft-quoted study, determined that the Senate bill would allow entry of 66 million new immigrants over the next twenty years, most of them unskilled and poorly educated. It would also put on a path to citizenship millions of law breakers who are in the country illegally. This at a time when foreign doctors, scientists, businessmen, and other professionals desperately wanting to come to this country legally must struggle through bureaucratic mazes, hire lawyers, and still wait years before attaining citizenship. The influx of new, mostly poor immigrants would swell the welfare rolls, strain our educational, health, and penal systems, increase government spending and, according to Rector, represent the single greatest expansion in the welfare state in 35 years, costing taxpayers billions. Would it be unreasonable to ask if our "leaders" had gone mad?


The amnesty provisions of the Senate bill are a case in point. They are together a complicated and unworkable morass of regulations that could never be administered properly. The three tiered system calls for those living here less than two years to leave; for those living here between two and five years to leave briefly and return through the guest worker program; for those here more than five years to begin a process leading to citizenship. This would entail a fee of some sort, a criminal background check, paying of back taxes, knowledge of American history and language and other sundry criteria.


But how could this ever be implemented? How could you prove with certainty how long an undocumented worker paid in cash with false ID and several aliases has been here? What would make those who are here less than five years leave voluntarily? The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) already has a backlog of five million immigration applications. The inevitable outcome of the additional demand would be, as Mark Krikorian has written in National Review, fraud and paralysis. By failing to address the administrative incapacity, the Senate plan is not just irresponsible, it is a fantasy.


Without border enforcement first, any guest worker or amnesty program will be a magnet for more illegal immigration. In 1986, some three million illegal immigrants were given amnesty with lip service paid to protecting the borders. The reward for our efforts is the twelve million illegal immigrants we have today.

The US could end illegal immigration through a series of enforcement reforms beginning first and foremost with securing the border. This would include hiring more border agents, the use of cameras, sensors, and other technologies - and building a fence. Tight border enforcement is the most critical part in any plan for preventing illegal immigration - not to mention protecting national security. Other measures would include workplace verification, rejecting false Social Security numbers, deputizing state and local authorities, halting welfare and social security benefits, a national ID, invalidating Mexico's "consular card," a biometric registry and check-in/check-out program that will track foreign visitors who enter legally but overstay. A majority of Americans are in favor of an immigration moratorium with sharply reduced legal immigration levels until the current backlog and assimilation issues are addressed. By stemming the tide of illegal immigration and making it unappealing to be here illegally, the current pool of illegal aliens can be reduced gradually through a process of attrition - without roundups and mass deportations.


The House should remain firm on a comprehensive enforcement bill only without guest worker or amnesty - or no bill at all. And in so doing prevent our balkanization into a bi-national state.


"The lack of administrative capacity combined with intense political pressure causes the immigration service to drop everything else to meet impossible deadlines." The result is ineligible applicants getting through.


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