Immigration

Make the Immigration Bill another “Miers Moment” for President Bush

Conservatives need to make this another “Miers Moment” for George W. Bush. Just as we did to stop the risible Supreme Court nomination of Hapless Harriett, conservatives must band together to stop the new Senate illegal immigration “reform” bill. Let us all stand, respectfully, in President Bush’s path with our right hands raised signaling “halt.” We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

President Bush is not solely to blame for this travesty. There’s blame aplenty to go around to Sen. McCain and others. We have to remember that it was only because of strong Republican opposition in the House that a similar blow wasn’t dealt to our national security last year. The Republican majority in the House is gone, and though the Senate may yet stop this particular bill, the President is the key. If he demanded that conservative principles be the foundation of immigration reform, they could be. As he stands now, the President is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Those conservative principles are no mystery. We believe – and Human Events will continue to insist – that our borders be secured before there is any consideration of any other aspect of the illegal immigration problem. Unless we secure our borders, all the rest is merely blue smoke and mirrors. Which the Senate bill, being unveiled today, is.

The Senate’s announced “compromise” compromises our national security and creates an economic and bureaucratic nightmare. Congress seems to be able to deal with illegal immigration only every twenty years or so. We cannot live with this legislation for one year, far less twenty: it would be far better to have no legislation this year (or next) than the Senate bill.

Border security is the sine qua non of immigration reform: without it, nothing else can have a serious effect on the problem. The Senate bill isn’t at all serious. It proposes hiring more Border Patrolmen, adding 70 ground-based radar towers on the Mexican border and deployment of four (yes, four) unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s tokenism of the most lethal sort. (Human Events will give you the specifics, later this week, on what real border security looks like. Start with one fact: the Senate bill ain’t it.)

Having made a small contribution to border security, the Senate bill does its worst: it creates the “guest worker” program immediately, without requiring objective proof that the border has been secured. This is the “solution” pushed by some faux-conservatives who think it more important to legalize the immigrants they need to run their horse shows, pick their grapes and artichokes cheaply enough than to enforce our borders. It is a disaster because it will be an insurmountable obstacle to real border security.

It’s nonsensical to equate the price of grapes to the danger of having more Kosovars sneak across the border to shoot soldiers at Fort Dix. There is no tradeoff to be made here. Let us hear no more of “guest worker” programs until we can see – by objective standards – that the borders have been secured. We will not compromise on the order in which these things must be done.

The only good news in the Senate bill is that it’s so complicated and such a political house of cards, that it may die of its own defects before it gets to the President. The legislative hubris written into this bill is so great it nearly surpasses describability. Anyone who believes that its “solutions” can be accomplished quickly – including Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff who said it can all be done in eighteen months — is, well, nuts.

When you look at the Senate bill, full of supposed disincentives in the form of economic penalties, think of how effective taxes are in changing human behavior. No matter how high cigarette taxes rise, people will smoke because some like to. No matter how high gasoline taxes go, people will still drive because they need to. And no matter how high you set the price for legal status here, illegals will still come across our porous borders. Most will still get jobs, education, medical benefits and function comfortably without taking on the burdens this unworkable bill would impose. Or the burdens citizens shoulder every day. (And those who are terrorists are so well-bankrolled as to make the “fines” a joke.) The real economic disincentive is to us, not to them.

The costs of illegal immigrants gaining legal status will bankrupt Social Security, Medicare and the rest of the “safety net” on which so many elderly legal Americans rely. It will accelerate the closing of hospitals and overcrowding of prisons and schools. It will be an immigration equivalent of the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill which was one of the main causes of the 1930s Great Depression.

Which brings us back to President Bush. He’s been a big spender like no Republican in memory. The fact that the Senate bill will cause the federal budget to explode seems beyond his concern. But this is our president, and we have to get him to understand that we cannot – under any circumstances – accept this bill, or anything like it, which fails to secure the borders as a precondition to other “reforms.”

President Bush believes that a guest worker program is essential to deal fairly with the people who have lived here for years, providing a below-market cost work force. But that is not, necessarily, inconsistent with what we believe. We do not pronounce anathema upon some sort of guest worker program for the future. But we believe, and will insist, that it cannot be discussed far less enacted unless and until we secure the borders, and then give the border security measures time to prove that they work. The President must hear from us — loudly, clearly and consistently until he changes his mind – that he is comprehensively wrong in supporting this bill or anything like it.

And while we say that to the President, we have to say it – with equal vehemence and frequency – to our congressmen and senators. It’s entirely possible that the good conservatives in the Senate (yes, there is still a goodly number) may be able to block the cloture motion Harry Reid will propose to gain quick passage of this bill. Reid wants to get this passed without giving people the time to really understand what it says or to study its effects. It’s not just those such as the President, whose position we oppose, that need to hear from us. Those in the Senate and House who are standing up for border security first need to hear our praise as loudly as those who don’t hear our opposition.

We reacted, strongly and with appropriate outrage, to the nomination of Harriett Miers. We won that fight. We must do the same now.

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