Illegal Immigration: Our Weak Spot in Security June 16, 2006Posted by June in Bureaucracy, Conservatism, News, Politics.
An Amnesty by Any Other Name
Article obtained from here since NY Times put it under password after a little while of being up.
Two decades ago, while serving as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, I was in the thick of things as Congress debated the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The situation today bears uncanny similarities to what we went through then.
In the mid-80's, many members of Congress — pushed by the Democratic majority in the House and the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy — advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and I supported his decision.
In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, he decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened — in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.
Beyond this, most illegal immigrants who could establish that they had resided in America continuously for five years would be granted temporary resident status, which could be upgraded to permanent residency after 18 months and, after another five years, to citizenship.
Note that this path to citizenship was not automatic. Indeed, the legislation stipulated several conditions: immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible. Sound familiar? These are pretty much the same provisions included in the new Senate proposal and cited by its supporters as proof that they have eschewed amnesty in favor of earned citizenship.
The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."
Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that's the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today's bill are both amnesties.
There is a practical problem as well: the 1986 act did not solve our illegal immigration problem. From the start, there was widespread document fraud by applicants. Unsurprisingly, the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections. And there proved to be a failure of political will in enforcing new laws against employers.
After a six-month slowdown that followed passage of the legislation, illegal immigration returned to normal levels and continued unabated. Ultimately, some 2.7 million people were granted amnesty, and many who were not stayed anyway, forming the nucleus of today's unauthorized population.
So here we are, 20 years later, having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and presidents. Will history repeat itself? I hope not. In the post-9/11 world, secure borders are vital. We have new tools — like biometric technology for identification, and cameras, sensors and satellites to monitor the border — that make enforcement and verification less onerous. And we can learn from the failed policies of the past.
Reagan did this with all the good intentions; but it backfired. Why are we making the same mistake once again? Why are we allowing people who broke the law to jump in front of law-abiding immigrants who came into this country legally, going through all the jumps and hurdles to get there.
The government can only let in so many people each year to prevent Americans from being outnumbered and to give the immigrants already here time to integrate and assimilate into the country, like my father did who came here at 19 not knowing a word of English. He did learn English; and he eventually became a citizen through the naturalization process (not by marriage).
By allowing these individuals to flood into our borders then get on a path to citizenship, we are allowing them to prevent law-abiding people from immigrating here because the government must take into account the number of illegals here, as well, when determining how many to let in.
That means thousands of legal immigrants who are left out in the cold or waiting forever to get here.
Besides, most of the people coming here do not want to assimilate. They do not want to become American. They want to force America to become Mexico or Columbia or whatever other country they come from. That's why they run around waving the Mexican flag rather than the American flag. That's why they demand Spanish translations for everything.
But, then again, what can you expect from immigrants who thumb their nose at our government, at our system? People who work hard, who save up to get here, who wait patiently for their green card to be approved — those people are the ones who will value what they get and who will value this country because they had to work so hard toacheive it.
We don't need new legislation. Reagan already signed border security bills into law. They simply have not been put into action. One thing that I am all for, though, is this idea of a wall on the border. Opponents liken it to the Berlin Wall; but I know that it's more like the Great Wall. What's the difference? The difference is that the Berlin Wall was put into place by the Communists to prevent people from leaving the country. The Great Wall was put in place to prevent people from invading. This wall would not be put up to keep Americans in, but to keep invaders out.
This is more than just an immigration issue. This is a security issue. This is a sovereignty issue. If we do not secure our borders, then we will not be able to prevent an attack on this nation. Terrorists could use this vulnerability to slip in with weapons and do us harm. Let's not also forget just how many criminals come across that border, as well. A good number of inmates in American prisons are illegals. The M13 gang is a gang that came over from Mexico. People living in high traffic crossing zones where illegals favor passage have reported vandalism, theft, and even endangerment of their lives by these people.
And if we don't have borders, we don't have a nation. America is the only country in the world required to do this. If you tried to sneak into France or Germany or Mexico or Hong Kong, you would be immediately deported (if not shot when sneaking into a Communist country.).Rush has a great idea. Let's adopt the Mexican immigration laws. If they are good for Mexico, then why are they not good for us?
I can understand why Bush is pressing for a guest worker program. In the Republican Party, there are business lobbyists that want the cheap labor; but they are getting low wages at the cost of our security and at the cost of all Americans because these illegals use many of the government programs that we pay for. Yes, they do pay sales tax when they buy things; but they do not have to pay an income tax that hits us like a ton of bricks along with many other taxes. So we do not end up on top in the end.
The highest concentration of illegals is in agriculture, where they are 24 percent of the people employed. That means three-quarters of the people are not illegal aliens. But when will the glib phrase-mongers stop telling us that the illegals are simply taking "jobs that Americans won't do"?
Besides, even if illegals were doing 70% of the labor, we still have all these welfare recipients sitting around doing nothing because, by law, to get welfare you must be unemployed. So why not put these people to good use by requiring them to do these jobs to get their checks? At least, we'll get some of our tax money back.
Personally, I would prefer security to be the issue that we deal with first. After we secure our borders, we can then worry about what to do with the illegals who are already here. But security of our nation is the most important thing.