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Mending a Broken Border
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 7/24/08

Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama recently addressed the National Council of La Raza at its convention in San Diego. Each was, of course, eagerly courting the Latino vote. Sen. Obama has the easier task in that regard, especially in California where polls indicate that they favor him over Sen. McCain by a margin of greater than 2 to 1. For all the GOP talk about being competitive in California this year, the state has become incurably liberal and therefore safely in the Democrat column, thanks to the large and growing Hispanic population which the party largely takes for granted.

Top issues which the convention organizers wanted discussed included health care, the mortgage crisis, education and, of course, immigration. On the latter issue, Mr. Obama again holds the advantage. While both candidates favor comprehensive immigration policy overhaul and Mr. McCain actually tried to get something done by co-sponsoring with Sen. Edward Kennedy a plan for it, McCain shifted his emphasis to strong enforcement measures first in order to gain the support from party conservatives that he needed to become the presumptive nominee.  Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has remained consistently in favor of comprehensive reform.

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]

Emphasis on strong enforcement efforts is a turnoff to most Hispanics, especially in the absence of a comprehensive immigration policy overhaul, by which they really mean a more liberal policy including a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for most of the more than 12 million illegal immigrants already here. Particularly offensive to critics of strong enforcement measures is the border fencing project and the sweeps by federal agents on the worksites of employers suspected of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Fences won’t work, the critics said. People will find a way to get over, under or around them. They are not the answer, they said, and, moreover, they are offensive to our good neighbors to the south. The Democratic Congress, nevertheless, approved over a billion dollars last year to erect fences and barriers along much of the border and the National Guard provided timely assistance in building them. Progress has been swift and the Department of Homeland Security expects to complete nearly 700 miles by the end of the year. Meanwhile, workplace sweeps are netting thousands of illegals, many using false or stolen ID.

For years, most illegals who were apprehended were provided prompt transportation back across the border where they would regroup, rest up and try again until they eventually succeeded. Now, in some sectors where the jail and courtroom capacity allows, they may face prosecution and jail time. No more is revolving door treatment assured. The word must be spreading.

Why are the critics so silent lately? Perhaps it’s because these enforcement measures are, in fact, working. They are not, by any means, a perfect or complete solution. No one expected them to be. There are still illegal crossings but they are fewer in number and the crossers are more easily detected and apprehended. The barriers now clearly identify a land border that formerly was marked by little more than sticks and barbed wire except for the Rio Grande separating Texas from Mexico which, in some places, is merely a trickle. It’s certainly easier to monitor a substantial 12 to 20 foot barrier or fence than it is to patrol a line in the sand. Advocates for the fence were right. It is a deterrent. Critics will say illegal immigration is down only because of the American economy but the economic magnet still exists, so great is the wealth disparity between the two nations.

Workplace surveillance and sweeps are likewise working. Some have resulted in arrests and fines of those knowingly hiring illegals. Some raids revealed flagrant violations, not just of federal hiring laws, but of crimes against individuals. A fast food franchisee recently pleaded guilty in federal court to providing illegal workers with false identification including names and social security numbers of U.S. citizens. The franchisee agreed to pay a one million dollar fine.

Hiring illegals and providing them with the data needed to enable them to steal the identities of unsuspecting U.S. citizens is simply outrageous. It is but one example of how far out of control the illegal immigration problem has gotten under the Clinton and Bush administrations. This is far more than just a nod and a wink at a few million hard working Mexican field workers trying to feed their families by doing work Americans won’t do. It’s now about identity theft, drug smuggling, gang violence, lawlessness on the border and, above all, national security. Congressional leadership and the president must be held accountable for this mess that they allowed to happen on their watch in order to indulge the appetites of American businesses, farms and households for cheap, uncomplaining labor. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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