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Getting it Wrong Again on Illegal Immigration
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 5/23/06

Of all the many issues that deeply divide Americans, illegal immigration can hardly be considered in the forefront. Poll after poll shows Americans by an overwhelming majority want the government to gain effective control of our borders and stop the flow of illegal aliens that is adding an estimated half million a year to the approximately 12 million that are already here and multiplying rapidly. Surveys also reveal that in many areas of the nation, concern over this monumental problem is surpassing concern over the war in Iraq.

But when the subject is subtly changed from illegal immigration to just plain immigration, as advocates of illegal immigrant rights and open borders are wont to do, the divisions quickly surface. The debate then turns to the need for broad immigration reform, guest worker programs and the difficult question of what to do about the huge illegal population now in the country. On these facets of the broader issue, Americans are all over the opinion spectrum, ranging from the nativists on the right who demand a virtual end to all immigration and the deportation of all illegal aliens to the liberals on the left who believe that America must act as a lifeboat for all the world’s huddled masses, even if they swamp the boat by their sheer number and needs.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

But to deal intelligently with the many issues of immigration reform will take years. Indeed, consensus may never be achieved, so great are the differences among our lawmakers, who, after all, are only reflective of the differences among their constituents. Common sense would seem to dictate that under such circumstances, policymaking should proceed cautiously, starting with small, achievable steps. Is it realistic to expect that the Senate, already in a state of perpetual division, can craft a well-conceived, comprehensive immigration reform bill in a few months and then reconcile it with the House’s draconian measure, to produce a bill that will meet President Bush’s lofty expectations?

Would it not make more sense to address the real emergency first which is the continued flow of illegal aliens over our southern border, accompanied by drug and human smuggling, drug gang violence and other criminal behavior, which is placing huge financial stresses on our schools, hospitals and social services and which has caused three border states to declare emergencies? One might think so, but not, apparently George W. Bush, who has indicated that he will accept no bill that does not address comprehensive immigration reform. Meanwhile, the problem, created by the failure of the federal government to enforce its own laws and the failure of local governments and the business community to fully cooperate, just grows worse each day.

The results of the afore-mentioned polls on border security, reflecting rare public unanimity on an issue, appear to have finally sunk in on politicians, including the president. Citizens have said that they are fed up and that they are going to hold incumbents responsible, even at the local level. They are doing things like returning those campaign solicitations, without checks, in the postage-paid envelopes they arrived in, with a note to do something about illegal immigration before asking for further support or money. Politicians are now falling all over themselves trying to sound tough on border security and illegal immigration. Against this background, Mr. Bush, with an eye on his plummeting popularity poll numbers, finally felt compelled to address the nation.

He started out by saying the words most Americans wanted to hear. “The United States must secure its borders,” he said. “It is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national interest.” One wonders why it took five and one-half years for Mr. Bush to recognize that border security is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation and an urgent requirement of national security. Belatedly, he now proposes to pay for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed on the border in support roles to assist the Border Patrol but only until Congress authorizes more Border Patrol agents. The troops would help build walls, operate surveillance equipment and presumably stay out of the way of the border cops. The president also promised to crack down on employers who hire illegals and called again for a tamper-proof ID to help them hire wisely.

Mr. Bush’s recognition of the extent of the problem caused by his administration’s failure to act, comes too late. He placed pandering for Hispanic votes and good relations with Mexico ahead of American security and economic interests. His border solutions are mostly toothless and are obfuscated by his insistence on linking America’s melting pot traditions and his desire for a more generous immigration policy with the immediate crisis of a border out of control.

What is needed on the border now is not unarmed Military Guardsmen fetching coffee and surveillance reports for Border Patrol “agents’. What is needed now is a truly militarized border, designed to stop those who try to cross illegally at the border, not miles inland. The word would quickly spread throughout points south that the Americans are finally actually serious about respecting the integrity of the border. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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