Given that the terrorist assaults of September 11, 2001, were conducted by foreigners on our soil, you might have thought that one of the central measures the U.S. government would have taken would be to tighten up its borders, to establish strict security both at our airports and all along the numerous crossing points into the U.S. from our two contiguous neighbors. Progress was indeed made when it came to detaining, interrogating, and deporting illegal entrants at international airports, but along the U.S. land borders, especially the border with Mexico, the situation has remained one of lightly supervised chaos. Immigration reformers and residents of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas have been complaining of the inadequacies of border patrol for many years – to the point where patriotic volunteers, the Minutemen, organized and volunteered to help the overwhelmed professionals of the U.S. Border Patrol. Their efforts met with resounding, if temporary success – and provoked the squeals of multicultural activists and employers addicted to cheap, illegal labor. Following a tired script, Open Borders advocates screamed “racism” and “xenophobia” at those who want to enforce our laws. But such attacks have begun to ring a little hollow, now that two generally open-borders U.S. governors – of New Mexico and Arizona – have declared the border situation in the their states are “emergencies” demanding federal attention.
At last the Bush administration appears to be waking up to the crisis, and to its constitutional responsibility to enforce American laws. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a recent Senate panel that his department intended to take measures to ensure that, going forward, all illegal immigrants arrested at the border would be deported. Using rhetoric much tougher than we have come to expect from this administration, Chertoff said:
The President believes – and I agree – that illegal immigration threatens our communities and our national security. The ability of undocumented individuals to enter our country represents an obvious homeland security threat. Flagrant violation of our borders undercuts the rule of law, undermines our security, and imposes particular economic strains on our border communities. When we do not control our borders, we also risk entry into the U.S. of terrorists or others wishing to do us harm.
Chertoff also noted:
Nearly 900,000 Mexicans who are caught entering the United States illegally are returned immediately to Mexico. But others parts of the system have nearly collapsed under the weight of numbers. The problem is especially severe for non-Mexicans apprehended at the southwest border. Today, a non-Mexican illegal immigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because we lack the holding facilities.
Who are these non-Mexicans who are being turned loose to disappear into our country? At least some of them hail from Middle Eastern countries which harbor anti-American terrorists, according to news reports. In 2003, U.S. authorities cracked an immigrant smuggling ring in Mexico which specialized in transporting Arabs into the U.S. – and which included among its ringleaders a former Mexican consul to Lebanon. Terrorist groups already present in Mexico include Hezbollah – the group that killed 241 American servicemen in Beirut in 1983. In a country as loosely governed and afflicted with official corruption as Mexico, with growing numbers of converts to Islam, terrorist groups are likely to be a growth industry; indeed, our southern neighbor may well prove to be to the U.S. what Morocco is to Spain – a transmission belt for enemies who wish to infiltrate the country.
For this reason if for no other, Congress should support and improve upon the newly proposed enforcement initiatives coming out of DHS, which include hiring 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, and using unmanned aerial “drones” to watch the border for unauthorized crossings. Chertoff noted that thanks to recently signed DHS Appropriations Bill that department “now has $940 million in new resources for DHS law enforcement agencies to further strengthen border security and enforcement. This includes more than $890 million alone for CBP and ICE, our primary border enforcement agencies. These increased resources will support a full range of critical border security needs, including 1,000 Border Patrol agents on top of the 500 new agents added last year. The bill also permits further expansion of detention capacity by as many as 1,920 additional beds, provides 250 additional ICE investigative agents, and adds eight new fugitive operations teams to track down individuals ordered to leave this country, but who instead absconded.” It seems unlikely, however, that these measures will be sufficient to achieve Chertoff’s admirable goal of completely eliminating “the ‘catch and release’ enforcement problem, and return[ing] every single illegal entrant – no exceptions.” To achieve that, much more needs to be done, and the administration knows it.
Unfortunately, the additional measures being proposed by the president do not include a greater military presence on the border – for instance, the use of state National Guard units to patrol entry points. Given that the governors of two states have described their immigration problems as “emergencies,” that might make sense. What else is the National Guard meant to do, if not address emergencies that threaten national security? The U.S. armed forces have gained valuable experience attempting to secure the borders of Iraq; it might make sense to apply some of this expertise closer to home. There is no need to completely militarize our border as if Mexico were an enemy, rather than a friendly (if chronically somewhat lawless) country. But some enhanced military presence along the border – especially given the growing number of armed “coyotes,” or immigrant smugglers, and dangerous immigrant street gangs such as MS-13 – makes common sense. If National Guardsmen with rifles aren’t out of place in New York’s Grand Central Station – I see them there all the time – then they belong on the Rio Grande as well.
Instead of using force sufficient to enforce the law, the Bush administration is proposing to create loopholes designed to help those who want to evade it. In Chertoff’s statement, he said that one of the three pillars of securing our borders was the Temporary Worker Program President Bush proposed – to widespread derision – two years ago. As he said at the time, “[I]n order to take pressure off the borders, in order to make the borders more secure, I believe there ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer to mate up, so long as there’s not an American willing to do that job, to join up in order to be able to fulfill the employers’ needs.”
There are several things wrong with this idea. Most obviously, Bush’s stealth amnesty plan would do very little to diminish the demand for illegal workers; employers who hire aliens (for instance, to build houses at $8 per hour) don’t just want cheap labor, they want invisible labor – workers who can’t unionize, won’t call the police, can’t file workers’ compensation claims, and are afraid to sue in U.S. courts. In other words, the next best thing to slaves.
It isn’t just immigrant workers who are hurt by uncontrolled immigration. American victims include our least privileged citizens – for instance black Americans, who once looked to entry-level jobs to work their way out of poverty. By importing millions of compliant illegal laborers to staff the meat-packing plants, Wal-Marts, and restaurant kitchens of America, pro-immigration Democrats are effectively giving up on poor Americans – pulling up the ladder which once provided access to the middle class for families such as my own, which rose from malnutrition in the 1930s to working class stability in the 1950s, and the Ivy League in the 1980s.
Ironically, members of minority groups who attain legal status immediately qualify for Affirmative Action – gaining the same privileges as the descendants of American slaves who toiled here for centuries, at the expense of other citizens whose parents fought alongside American blacks in this country’s (not Mexico’s or Pakistan’s) wars.
You’d expect, in saner times, a protest from union leaders, who once championed attempts to reform immigration. But labor leaders have, on this issue, abandoned the interests of American workers. The leaders of the AFL-CIO now see incoming immigrants as potential members in need of patronage and political organizing. Besides, the manufacturing sectors of organized labor (for instance, the once-conservative Teamsters and United Auto Workers) have been shrinking for decades; the “growth industry” in the labor movement now resides in far-left government unions such as the SEIU – which directly benefit from importing social problems which must be managed by ever-expanding government programs. To these leftist entrepreneurs of bureaucracy, new immigrants amount to new clients and cheap votes.
The dominant factions among the Republican Party – by which I mean the large-dollar donors – see in the helpless economic refugees who risk their lives to enter America nothing more than strong backs and busy hands. Agricultural interests have come to rely on illegal immigrants to harvest our vegetables and fruit. Computer giants such as Microsoft avoid paying competitive wages to American software programmers by abusing guest worker programs such as the H1-B Visa – buying political cover by hiring lobbyists such as Grover Norquist to push for ever-laxer immigration policies in Congress. The “Temporary Worker Program” revived by President Bush would codify and legitimize such practices – granting anyone anywhere the right to come to the U.S., provided an American company could offer wages too low to attract an American citizen.
“These are jobs no American would take,” the cheap-labor addicts complain. To which the right response is, “Not at that wage.” If business leaders believe in the free market, then they know that a limitless supply of a commodity (such as labor) lowers the price, while scarcity raises it. By forcing U.S. workers to contend against the entire population of the Third World for those jobs not already outsourced to China, these policies have caused wages to fall precipitously. Candidate Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative.” It’s hard to see how that squares with proposing a massive pay cut for America’s poorest citizens.
In purely political terms, opening the borders is long-term suicide for the Republican Party – as Peter Brimelow once documented. So it might surprise us that so many business leaders favor it. It shouldn’t. It has been a long time since businessmen were dependably Republican, much less conservative. It’s been even longer since businessmen like Henry Ford made sure to offer their workers a wage high enough that they could buy their products, since Metropolitan Insurance Company built model communities for their employees to inhabit. As corporations have been driven by short-term numbers such as quarterly growth in stock price or earnings, longer-term investments and social responsibility have been almost forgotten. It’s refreshing to visit Starbucks for a coffee – knowing that the company provides health care and 401k plans for its part-time workers. Why? Because its founder, Howard Schultz, has a conscience; he was inspired to found his company by reading Small Is Beautiful, penned by the Catholic social philosopher E.F. Schumacher. Similar sentiments can be found in the work of free-market stalwarts Adam Smith and Wilhelm Röpke, who knew that a free society and free economy depend on social stability and the hope of upward mobility for one’s children. Conversely, revolutionary socialists from Marx to Lenin dreamt that “capitalists” would seek out newer ways to squeeze and exploit the working class, thereby goading it to disaffection and disloyalty. “The worse it gets, the better it is,” Marxists have always said. “Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we’ll hang them.”
For those of you with long memories, the Reagan administration’s amnesty for illegal aliens was also festooned with promises that “this won’t happen again,” and elaborate schemes for punishing those who employed illegal aliens. These efforts collapsed in court, and were soon abandoned. The original catastrophic “reform” of U.S. immigration policy in 1965, crafted by Teddy Kennedy, was also presented as a modest attempt to rectify injustice, with few long-term consequences for the country. The “family-reunification” provisions were presented as minor concessions to humanitarianism. We all know how that worked out.
Advocates of national security should welcome the administration’s belated offer to perform its constitutional duty and defend America’s borders – but should not give in to the political blackmail which accompanies it: the demand that we reward lawbreakers with amnesty, leftist politicians with more disgruntled ethnic voters, and sweatshop owners with pliant laborers.
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