Bush’s Smoke and Mirrors at the Border

Last night, President Bush enlisted the National Guard to fight for the rights of illegal immigrants.

The policies Bush advocated in his speech from the Oval Office would enshrine our current state of lax border security under the guise of enforcement. He promoted a tepid and inadequate response in order to bolster an unpopular labor program that would effectively grant amnesty to tens of millions of illegal aliens, spike welfare spending, change the social and linguistic structure of our nation, and swell our population by perhaps as much as 200 million.

Bush’s political brilliance resides in the fact that at first blush, it appears he has given the “nativists” exactly what they wanted: troops stationed along the Mexican border. Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo have advocated that measure for more than a decade. But the devil’s in the details: they actually want the National Guard to act. Bush would dispatch at most 5,999 guardsmen on a short-term assignment to engage in every activity except catching illegal immigrants. The guardsmen will be “analyzing intelligence…building patrol roads,” etc. Bush would station a National Guardsman approximately every half-mile of the border, peering through binoculars for approaching illegals. When the Minutemen did this (for free), the federales reportedly dropped the dime on them to the Mexican government.

The plan seems to posit that the greatest crisis facing Border Patrol is insufficient office help.

Bush will now split enforcement functions between two separate bureaucracies, uniting dueling hierarchies along the border in a short-term marriage of political convenience.

This is Bush’s war – and breaking from recent practice, he’s already drawn up an exit strategy, complete with a timeline. “This initial commitment of Guard members would last for a period of one year. After that, the number of Guard forces will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come online.” Not only are the guardsmen office workers, they’re temps.

Bush also promised to end the current practice of “catch-and-release.” So did Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff…last October. Then, Chertoff vowed to “return every single entrant – no exceptions.” In the year prior to his statement, the Border Patrol had caught and released 130,000 non-Mexican illegals (three times as many as in fiscal year 2003), mostly due to lack of space. Yet according to Fox News, Chertoff’s costly budget proposal added “hundreds of beds” for this small city of invaders. Had he offered a serious proposal seven months ago, the president’s speech last night would have highlighted the policy’s successes. Instead, Bush warned against too much enforcement.

“Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant – and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty.” Indeed. Anything short of applying the full penalty of the law to a criminal – in this case, deportation – is at least partial amnesty; the president is merely dickering over the terms of clemency, the real heart of his immigration plans since the late 1990s. In addition to creating a “temporary” guest worker program, he would allow untold millions of illegal immigrants who can “prove” they have been in this country for at least five years to pay a fine and apply for U.S. citizenship, with all its attendant rights and privileges – including the right to import most of their village.

He will ensure the integrity of his guest worker plan by issuing a “tamper-proof” ID to all transients, then hold employers accountable for hiring anyone without one. This card would “leave employers with no excuse for violating” the law. Of course, as long as the benefit of paying non-unionized illegals less than market wage outweighs the likelihood of being prosecuted, business will need no further “excuse.” Bush absolved employers even of this, since “[m]any [illegals] use forged documents to get jobs.”

What does he think they will use to get their “tamper-proof” ID cards or prove they have been in this country five years? Presumably, the notorious Mexican matricula consular ID card will play a role.

The ridiculous provision to deport only those illegals resident in this country less than five years will assure every illegal has documentation proving he has been here since 9/11, igniting an already booming forgery industry (another example of Republican entrepreneurship).

Bush reassures, “temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.” So, too, must those on other temporary work visas. The General Accounting Office estimates 2.3 million people had overstayed their visas as of January 2000 – and acknowledges this number is artificially low. Rep. John Hostettler, R-IN, has revealed an additional 300,000 join their ranks every year. Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-CA, estimates overstays make up one-third of all illegals. Some have worked their way into disturbingly sensitive positions. Dr. Nancy Kingsbury of the GAO told the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims: “Operation Tarmac identified more than 4,000 illegal immigrants who had misused identity documents to obtain airport jobs and security badges.” This is cold comfort, indeed.

As he pushes Congress to include his provisions in their final bill, he ignored the fact that, apart from the 325,000 people provided for by the proposed guest worker program, the Hagel-Martinez provisions debated in the Senate would double the number of legal immigrants coming into the United States, to nearly two million a year. Already, ten percent of the population of Mexico resides in America. Add to this a six-year “path to citizenship” for 10-13 million illegals already within our borders, and the McCain-Kennedy bill could import 36.5 million new immigrants within eight years. By 2026, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill could admit 193 million new legal immigrants, all with the inalienable right to entitlement programs, gratis emergency room visits, Medicare, and Social Security – and if recent trends hold, very few of them speaking English. No wonder the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector calls this “the largest expansion of the welfare state in 35 years,” costing an estimated $30 billion a year.

In addition to the massive influx of immigrants – legal, temporary, and despite a few eagle-eyed guardsmen, illegal – there is another problem: they are intellectually, to use Al Gore’s phrase, “the wrong people.” The Senate bill would cut the number of visas going to highly skilled immigrants in half. The Washington Times reported yesterday, “the highest skilled workers would be granted 135,000 visas annually, while the unskilled would be granted 150,000 annually.” These unskilled workers compete with our most marginal laborers, struggling to eke out a blue collar subsistence in the information age. Approximately 44 percent of their wage depression can be ascribed to the squeeze exerted by unskilled immigrants, legal or otherwise.

As America’s most vulnerable workers lose their jobs, pay a heavier tax burden, see the quality of their local schools deteriorate through bilingual education, watch crime skyrocket, and struggle to understand the language being spoken in their neighborhoods, they can thank El Hefe Bush.

True, he did speak of building fences along the border; one can hope this will occupy a greater prominence than his speech indicated. And should the federal crackdown on employers continue past 2008, that will provide an effective means of deterring illegal immigration. But the president cannot presume it will, and what he’s proposed in the interim is inept.

If President Bush wanted a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration, he should have instead proposed these five objectives:

1. Build a border fence/wall/ditch and wait at least four years to demonstrate we have regained control of our southern border. The vast majority of Americans say before the government considers any form of amnest…err, “path to citizenship” for millions of border jumpers, it must get control of the borders and stop the flow. Americans are a generous lot but are not interested in forging “paths to citizenship” every generation or so in perpetuity. President Bush told America last night he, too, desperately wants to plug our porous borders, and “to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program.” (The reigning king of non-sequiturs.) Israel is demonstrating a reinforced wall can effectively strangle all traffic. Building a fence along the Mexican border would help determine whether Bush’s goal is gaining “full control of the border” or granting a sop to the Chamber of Commerce. As President Reagan said, “Trust but verify.”

2. Deport all illegals who have a violent or felonious criminal record, whether the offense occurred here or in their country of origin. Not all immigrants come to America to find something; some come to escape. Many have fled the law in Mexico to settle with relatives in America, who are rarely molested by the boys in blue…until they commit a “serious” crime. Nearly 30 percent of all federal prisoners are illegal aliens (although this number is underreported by the media). Florida alone spends $155 million annually jailing its illegal immigrant population. Fox News has reported, “In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding homicide warrants and 60 percent of outstanding felony warrants are for illegal aliens.” Bush should put violent illegals on a fast track to Guadalajara.

3. Deny all welfare and public housing benefits to anyone here illegally. Although dominant mythology has illegal immigrants coming here to do “jobs Americans won’t do” (for 14 hours a day at less than minimum wage), not a few have discovered the beauties of government-subsidized siesta. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of all households headed by Mexican illegals received welfare. The Center for Immigration Studies reports, “California has estimated that the net cost to the state of providing government services to illegal immigrants approached $3 billion during a single fiscal year.” A slightly lower percentage of illegals received welfare than legal immigrants – and they received about half as many dollars as their legal counterparts – because they are legally barred from receiving such benefits. (Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s decision to enact this policy in the Peach State led to a massive rally in Atlanta.) Giving these temporary non-workers (?) legal status would undoubtedly swell these costs, just a decade after the Republican Congress got them under control.

4. Institute genuine immigration reform. Put in a fast track – for highly skilled legal immigrants still waiting elsewhere – and move immigration away from Ted Kennedy’s 1965 “family reunification” emphasis. Some highly skilled Filipino immigrants – with college degrees and technical skills – have waited more than 20 years to enter the U.S. Conversely, 69 percent of all adult immigrants had no employment history whatever. Most had less than a high school education. The National Academy of Sciences found each one of these costs the United States $90,000; immigrants only begin to contribute to the economy with post-secondary education.

5. Only after all this has taken hold, allow a “path to citizenship” for remaining illegals essentially as outlined by President Bush. Namely, allow illegals who are otherwise law-abiding to pay a fine, learn English, and apply for citizenship – well behind those who have obeyed immigration laws by staying in their own country. I would add the following provisions: they must also pass an American civics course, give up the right to vote in foreign elections, speak English in schools, forgo the ability to receive any form of public benefits for five years after attaining citizenship (with no exceptions for adults), and lose the right to apply for “family reunification” for their relatives. However tempered by mercy, justice must inflict a sting upon the unjust.

These measures would assure any open-hearted amnesty would be a temporary, limited, and solitary event, rather than a revolving door opening out onto economic and cultural dissolution.

One can hope President Bush’s plan, as implemented, may provide an unexpected success. But one would have precious little fodder for his faith.

This article originally appeared as the lead story on Tuesday, May 16, 2006, on FrontPage Magazine.