Despite initial pledges to bring America's borders under control following 9/11, America's elected officials -- including conservative Republicans both inside and outside the Bush Administration -- have advanced programs to reward illegal immigration. Recently, the highest ranking officials charged with protecting Americans from terrorist attacks, including President Bush himself, have been dropping hints that deals are underway to legalize some 13 million "undocumented workers" living among us -- and possibly send Social Security checks south of the border.
Speaking before a town hall meeting in Miami recently, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge let slip a prospective plan to legalize 13 million illegal aliens currently in our nation. He told the crowd that the government has an obligation to "afford some kind of legal status" to the 13 million who have snuck across our borders or who have committed visa violations.
''I'm not saying make them citizens,'' Ridge said. "They violated our laws to get here. You don't reward that kind of conduct.'' However some level of reward is implied by his statement.
None Dare Call It Amnesty
A DHS spokesperson told Frontpagemag.com that Ridge did not mention any "amnesty" program. "The Secretary said that we've got to come to grips with reality that there are 8-13 million people and that they will have to have some sort of legal status as we go through the accounting of determining who may pose a potential threat to us. The word 'amnesty' was not mentioned by the Secretary," the DHS spokesperson Brian Roehrkasse said.
Although the term "amnesty" has not been used, what else could one call a guest worker program that would allow millions of illegal workers to be legally employed, pay taxes and collect Social Security benefits upon retiring? Ridge is correct in saying this is not a "blanket" amnesty, giving citizenship to the millions affected by such a program; it would, however, create a second class citizenship consigning a minority to perpetual menial jobs. Moreover, this intolerable condition, incompatible with the fundamental tenants this nation was founded upon, would not endure, instead becoming the foot in the door to outright citizenship (that is, "amnesty").
Days after the Miami trial balloon, White House spokesman Scott McClellan reaffirmed Ridge's comments by saying that, while the federal government has taken steps to beef up immigration enforcement and border security, those moves are merely the “foundations for moving forward on a more orderly, safe and humane migration policy.”
It was not the first time Ridge has hinted at a guest worker program; his remarks before a conference on issues of illegal immigration sponsored by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in January of 2002 highlighted the policy that has been put forth by the administration since Bush first took office. At the conference he responded to an attendee's question on possible amnesty by saying, “If [illegals] have been in this country, if they have proven to be productive citizens, if they've engaged in their communities, supporting their schools -- if those around the caliber and the qualities that they bring to their community -- we may want to consider treating them a little bit differently than just outright lawbreakers.” That these criminals are outright lawbreakers seems to be in question by the man in charge of protecting our shores from criminal invaders.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed much the same sentiments when he said that "the Mexicans already here in the United States and making a positive contribution to our economy, and doing a lot for themselves and doing a lot for the American people" deserve some quasi-legal status. The State Department has been hashing out the details of a proposed amnesty or guest worker program with Mexican President Vincente Fox's government since the summer of 2001. The 9/11 attacks effectively placed any such considerations on the back burner, but with the election looming -- and on the heels of the popular but incredibly costly Congressional Medicare "reform" -- it now appears that enough time has passed and enough goodwill has been created within the ranks of Congress to make a de facto amnesty program viable to the Bush Administration.
Immigration reform advocates expressed justifiable concern with these recent developments. David Ray, a spokesman for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, told Frontpagemag.com: "It seems that everyone is bending over backwards to reward people who have not only cheated their way into the country, but have cheated the system to remain. They've cheated the taxpayer for social services they didn't pay for, and now they've cheated their way to a green card."
"Prior to 9/11, Bush and Fox had been talking all along about some sort of guest worker amnesty. Democrats have historically been for amnesty but now the Republicans are being very careful not to use the (word) 'amnesty'...(They use phrases like) 'earned legalization,' 'guest worker proposal,' 'pay as you go,' but what they're really talking about is (a) program that does contain an amnesty component, because it's going to allow illegals to remain -- and eventually put them on the road to a green card and citizenship. You can put a pig in a new dress, but it's still a pig underneath."
During a press conference in mid-December, President Bush told reporters that "this administration is firmly against blanket amnesty" for the 13 million "undocumented" aliens in question. However, he believes there is room for a guest worker program. “I have constantly said that we need to have a immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee,” the President stated. "We're in the process of working that through now so I can make a recommendation to the Congress."
Other GOP Proposals
In the meantime, lawmakers are not cooling their heels waiting for recommendations from the White House. Congressmen have floated proposals through the House and Senate for months, and these look to be key components of the Congressional agenda after the Christmas recess.
GOP Representatives Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain (all Republicans from Arizona) have sponsored companion legislation that would begin the process to grant a legal status to illegal workers in the United States. Called the "Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act of 2003" (H.R. 2899 and S. 1461), the bill seeks to amend “the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish new visa programs.” The bill would create a new visa category for migrant workers, which would allow illegals already present to pay a small fine, then enter the program. Registration in the program would legalize hiring these criminal aliens, change existing employment laws currently prohibiting it, and open the flood gates to additional migrants seeking to work under the new plan.
According to Kolbe, the bill "will allow a safe and accessible way for United States businesses, which are desperate to find individuals to fill their job openings, to find and employ able and hard working foreign workers."
“Clearly, momentum for a comprehensive and fair temporary worker program continues to build,” Rep. Flake announced in a December release. “Congress has the responsibility to begin debate on this proposal.”
A Much Better Proposal
Although few co-sponsors have come forward to support the measures, it is believed that, like the controversial Medicare bill recently passed with intense pressure from the White House, the support the Bush Administration has already lent the proposals could give guest worker amnesty the political clout needed to make it law. Nevertheless, public opinion has continually viewed any kind of quasi-amnesty overtures negatively, leaving many lawmakers questioning the administration's priorities.
"I can think of few things that could be more dangerous for homeland security than granting amnesty to million illegal aliens. Hearing the Secretary of Homeland Security suggest such a course of action is -- to say the least -- somewhat disturbing," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, Chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus. "Perhaps the Administration ought to dedicate more energy to enforcing our existing immigration laws and less on finding ways to allow millions to skirt them."
Social Security para todo el mundo
On the heels of Ridge's comments came reports that the Bush Administration was seriously considering allowing Mexicans working in the United States illegally to collect Social Security benefits. According to press reports, the Bush Administration is considering adding Mexico to the list of 20 other countries currently participating in “totalization” agreements that allow workers who return to their nation of origin to collect Social Security payments. Opponents of the move point to the identity theft and under-the-table payments many Mexican aliens receive for their labors, opening the door to massive fraud and abuse. This also overlooks the added strain the payments will place upon the already-imperiled Social Security program. Yet all reports indicate that White House sources support the plan.
The proposals for guest worker amnesty, coupled with the Social Security for Mexicans, make it clear that the Republican Party and the Bush Administration are actively pursuing some form of legalization for aliens, if not outright citizenship.
"This is like a double-header horror story," Ray said. "Not only are we going to reward people who willingly and flagrantly violated our immigration laws, but we have no plan in place after doing so to curtail illegal immigration. We are setting ourselves up for the same scenario five years from now."
The last time blanket amnesty was offered to illegals, in 1986, approximately 2.7 million took advantage of the citizenship offer. Yet that year the nation saw a dramatic increase in both illegal immigration and chain migration, wherein the newly minted "citizens" sponsored family members to come to America. Both results ran counter to the reduction lawmakers and other amnesty proponents assured us would occur.
And far worse, as Ray's emphasized, "In 1993 some of those amnesty recipients were involved in the first World Trade Center bombing."
As the administration and other amnesty-friendly lawmakers attempt an election year political coup, reform advocates are already predicting an onslaught of propoganda to bolster voter support for both the guest worker program and Social Security payments.
"There's going to be a huge disinformation campaign waged by the White House in an attempt to convince the American public that this isn't a measure that will reward lawbreakers," Ray said. He added that FAIR would be hard-pressed to counter this campaign by educating the citizenry about the significance and long-term ramifications of the amnesty proposals. "If you listen to the discussion, you'd think that if amnesty were offered tomorrow, illegal immigration would no longer be a problem in the United States."
Another talking point Ray expects to hear from the White House is that the program will actually strengthen national security, because it will allow us to know exactly who all the illegal aliens are. Dismissing this claim as "hogwash," Ray asserted that it would take DHS at least a decade to do background checks on 13 million illegal aliens "whose identity we can't even substantiate."
It is clear that the Bush Administration, under the political guidance of Karl Rove, has walked the political tight rope of centrism on many issues, stealing thunder and political support from the Left while offering a softer, more "compassionate" conservatism. This form of triangulation, which was effective for Bill Clinton has worked to a lesser extent for George W. Bush, as he has positioned himself in the middle on such issues as education and Medicare. The current energy bill and ”Clean Forest Initiative” are other examples of Bush's running to the center. While these moves have alienated some of his base -- and have won him no points with the implacable Left -- it has gained Bush the support of many. In short, it's effective politics, but it's still politics as usual.
Instead of plugging the widening gap in our borders, these potential "undocumented" worker programs will open the floodgates of immigration further yet. And this amnesty proposal may backfire politically. Polling shows that a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents all favor stricter enforcement of immigration laws, not laxer guidelines, and certainly not blanket amnesty. If President George W. Bush applies the force of the bully pulpit behind an ill-conceived amnesty program, the resulting security breach may cost Bush the election -- and the American people their security. That's a price they will not willingly pay in a post-9/11 world. In proposing any form of amnesty, President Bush is playing with fire.