Bush's Immigration Speech: Practical or Pipedream?

Monday, May 15, 2006

President Bush's immigration speech tonight hardly justified pushing back "24" in order to accommodate an unclear plan that may bring stability to our nation's southern border. The rub, of course, is the enforceability to the president's strategy.

Here is Bush's five-point plan to "deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair."

First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign Nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration – and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.
Bush is absolutely 100% correct on this. We need a secure border, but a border is only secure if we know who's crossing it. As of now there is no system in place to catch every illegal alien crossing the border. Bush wants to install 6,000 National Guard personnel and eventually hire 6,000 more border patrol agents. But are these numbers sufficient? Fox's Bill O'Reilly wants 15,000 National Guard troops. Why less than half? What kind of technology will the National Guard bring?
Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.
Unless you believe in magic, this part of the plan makes no sense. How will a guest-worker program abruptly reduce the number of illegal crossers? If the first part of the plan is successfully implemented, and the border does become "secure," there will be no reason to introduce a plan to reduce the number of illegal aliens crossing the border!

The practical reason for something like a guest-worker program would be to provide a way for foreigners to legally find work in the country without applying for citizenship. The problem is, for this to work foreigners would have to comply with the rules that include returning home after the duration of the stay. But do we honestly expect those on the program to voluntarily leave the country? Can we bridge the program to a plan to legalization? Should we?
Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker.
Like step one, this part is crucial. It's too easy for illegal aliens to find work when employers are welcoming them with open arms. Companies must be heavily fined and punished for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. In Bush's world employers have been tricked into hiring illegal aliens, but how many do it knowingly?
Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully – and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.
This is the most unclear part of the plan. The president is against full-blown amnesty, but also against mass deportation. He calls for a penalty system that I believe is unattractive to illegal aliens who need an incentive to register in the country legally. Bush is pandering to the moderates while trying not to offend either end too much by pretending you can oppose deportation without granting amnesty.
Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one Nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language.
That's some sugary sweet goodness for you! This is all well and good, but in order to get to this point we must get step one right, and that requires immediate reinforcement of the border. Will 6,000 National Guard troops do the trick?

Regardless, it is a start. No one will be perfectly satisfied with the program, but at least the illegal immigration issue is getting some serious attention. Here is the recap:

Step One: Secure the Border. (Excellent, but the president's strategy for this is a long shot.)

Step Two: Guest-Worker Program. (Unnecessary; won't reduce number of illegal crossers, but a start to allowing for legal immigration.)

Step Three: Hold Employers Accountable. (Necessary, and can be easily enforced. Make it harder for illegal aliens to find work, and force them to become legal.)

Step Four: Legalize the Illegals. (This is amnesty even if you make them pay a fee for it. Needs clarity if not scrapped all together.)

Step Five: Honor the melting pot. (The president simply being a politician.)