Even before President Bush’s amnesty proposal for illegal workers already working in the US was released this month, the issue had emerged as one of the hot topics in the US last year. Concerns about homeland security, the economy and other issues stemming from the rising tide of illegals flooding our shores brought the issue to the forefront of America's consciousness. Official government estimates of the number of illegals in the US at the beginning of last year ranged from 8-10 million, swelling to about 13 million by the end of the year, one of the most rapid periods of illegal immigrant population growth in our nation’s history.
Pushing illegal immigration past the high tide mark toward a critical mass on the list of national security and public safety concerns were numerous policies enacted by state and local governments that actively undermine any attempt to rein in the flow of potential terrorists, criminals or other undesirables. In some instances, these so-called "Sanctuary" policies specifically forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. While enacted under the auspices of providing social services and health care to illegal alien communities, these well-intentioned policies have led to disastrous consequences.
Among them: D.C sniper John Lee Malvo was able to avoid federal scrutiny in Washington state, which would have prevented his killing spree; the abduction, rape and murder of three women in the Houston area by an illegal; and the rape of a Queens, NY, woman. In each instance, local ordinances prevented federal authorities from identifying the alleged perpetrators as illegal aliens and deporting them. Later in the year New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg begrudgingly lifted the sanctuary policy only after being ordered by a federal court. But even as it was lifted others were enacted in Maine and Maryland. In October, the Department of Homeland Security's Operation Predator netted 1,300 arrests of convicted sex offenders, all of whom were here illegally. Experts say the efforts, while laudable, barely scratched the surface, as the initiative continued unearthing illegal non-citizen sexual predators through the end of the year. Over 80,000 aliens with criminal actions pending are currently loose on our streets, free to act.
In fairness, not all Operation Predator criminals benefited directly from Sanctuary policies. Moreover, many local police, such as those in Alabama and Florida, have begun training with DHS personnel specifically for assisting in federal immigration law enforcement. However the fledgling agency bore some stigma from its earlier incarnation: in numerous instances, local police who have attempted to work with the feds on immigration have been met with widespread institutional indifference under the Immigration and Nationalization Service in the past. But this year Homeland Security officials, who now have jurisdiction over immigration, began compiling a national database of immigrants, opening it to local police to help increase the flow of information and cooperation. Additionally, more funding has been made available and the Department of Justice is revamping the rules for local law enforcement to follow in the apprehension and detention of illegals. Yet no system remains fail-safe when U.S. politicians and foreign governments collude in pushing dangerous policies aimed directly at thwarting our immigration laws, which in a post-9/11 environment poses serious challenges to our national security.
"Idiotic" Matricula IDs
Matricular Consular cards, a form of ID issued by the government of Mexico, which is rife with security lapses, are used primarily by criminal aliens who posses no passport or visa allowing them to be here legally. State governments agencies, banks, landlords, employers, and even the some federal departments are currently accepting these ID cards. The widespread acceptance of this faulty ID prompted immigration reform firebrand Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, to ask, “How can states be allowing illegal immigrants driver’s licenses which are . . . the passport to American society?”
Calling the Matricula-acceptance practice “idiotic,” Tancredo cited instances of ATM-style machines near consular offices dispensing Mexican birth certificates, the sole requirement to obtaining the Matricula. In another case an Iranian was caught in possession of multiple Matriculas, under multiple aliases, proving how easily these “identification” cards can be abused and manipulated. The Bush administration initially appeared divided over the issue, with Treasury officials endorsing Matriculas and Justice officials denouncing them before Congress. Yet as the year wore on, Justice retracted its concerns. Legislation to ban Matriculas, offered by Rep. Tancredo, was soundly defeated on the House floor, despite polls showing overwhelming voter opposition to Matriculas. The year ended with the issue left unaddressed and the security concerns steadily growing at the state and local level.
License to Invade
In 2003 we saw the Democratic Governor of California Gray Davis, fighting for his political life, attempting to cater to Hispanic radicals by granting drivers’ licenses to illegals. Newly elected Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed the law, but has left wiggle room to bring the matter back before the California General Assembly. States such as Rhode Island have eliminated similar license policies while others, such as Massachusetts and Arizona, debate adopting them. Some states allow the Matricular ID as proof of identity for a license and currently 13 states allow their issuance. This is again despite massive voter opposition.
Protect Arizona Now (PAN), a citizens group in Arizona, formed in 2003 to combat Democrat Gov. Janet Napolitano's ill-advised attempt to reward illegal immigration by granting aliens drivers’ licenses, government benefits, amnesty and the right to vote. Well on its way to collecting the signatures of 122,612 registered voters before the deadline of July 1, 2004, PAN plans to add the "Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act" to the 2004 ballot. It would require proof of citizenship before registering to vote, as well as requiring state workers to check the immigration status of anyone who applies for state services. PAN spokesperson Kathy McKee explained, “We’re the ones who, after the illegals come across the border, are having to pay through the nose for all these services. And then, of course, there’s the voting problem. So we just decided that we would try to find a way to bypass the political process and the liberal media and take it directly to the citizens of this state, because most people here...know what’s going on.”
Citizen uprisings in border states have run from the peaceful frustration of organized border patrol groups and petition gatherers in Arizona to semi-violent and nationalistic in states like Maine, who face a ground swell of immigrants from Somalia and other east African nations seeking out the generous welfare benefits offered in the insular state. Groups like the Texas-based Ranch Rescue and the Civil Home Defense Corps sought to clamp down on the porous southern border with Mexico. CHD founder Chris Simcox said, “We're doing what President George W. Bush has told us to do. We're volunteering to help protect our country. We want to help (the Border Patrol) get the job done until our government has the will to give them the manpower and the equipment that they need to do the job.”
Immigrants from more than 100 nations, crossing borders illegally in the night or fraudulently obtaining or overstaying visas, have created chaos – and some politicians have attempted to restore some semblance of order. Legislation introduced in 2003 ran the gamut of the political spectrum ranging from increasing the security of the border to all but eliminating it. Bills are before the Senate to grant in-state tuition to the children of illegal aliens while denying the same to legal residents of adjoining states. Others in Congress push to grant citizenship to huge portions of the illegal population.
Helping make sense of it all.
Organizations such as FAIR, FILE and CIS have issued numerous polls, study papers and other reports highlighting the need and the vast majority political will of voters for common sense immigration reforms. But ACLU, MeCHA, MALDEF and other radical leftist groups have continued their assault on our nation's borders seeking to further undermine its security, all the while aided by politicians elected by those same voters polled on the matter.
A December CIS report (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1703.html) examines this glaring disconnect between the American public will and their elected actors over this issue. It notes the popularity of immigration with the U.S. political elite saying no other issue illustrates the "great divide" between them and ordinary American citizens. Further, it says viewing the issue along traditional Republican/conservative and Democrat/liberal lines does not explain this behavior.
"As with communism in Eastern Europe, the high cost of actively opposing immigration in the United States leads to what Polish intellectual Czeslaw Milosz called 'Ketmanism,' which is 'acting out a series of public roles while masking one’s private opinions: a constant and universal masquerade,'" writes author Fredo Arias-King, a former aide to Mexican President Vincente Fox. "This Ketmanism applies not only to the political leaders we met, but also by and large to the American population, though in the opposite direction. The congressmen in private expressed positive views on immigration even though in public they vow to 'get tough,' while many Americans in private are more critical of immigration than they are in public."
The state of the union regarding illegal immigration
This year President George W. Bush, having already proposed immigration reform, faces re-election. Voters passionate about immigration reform may be disappointed with their choices at the ballot box, since no presidential candidate has expressed an interest in curtailing current levels of immigration or attempting the remove those already here illegally. Most would, as the Bush administration has proposed to do, reward them with some kind of amnesty, thus providing incentive for even more illegals to make their way through our porous borders. Legislation is pending by Rep. Tom Tancredo and Rep. Charlie Norwood to help stem the flood of illegals, but their chances are slim as the administration and others have adopted more liberal stands. As voter concerns intensify over the coming year, the voters will take to the fight to the ballot box, the internet and talk radio shows to make their voices heard.