Friday, June 15, 2007

If it were Bill Clinton, there might be some credibility

President Bush has now, in his last ditch attempt to save the immigration bill designed in Sen. Kennedy's office (with some input from John McCain,) promised $4.4 billion to fund border security.

Bush pledged his support for the proposal Thursday, heralding it as a necessary step toward convincing naysayers that the government will stick by promises to deliver on security improvements where it has neglected to do so before.

"It's important for the people to know that their government is serious about meeting these benchmarks," Bush said. "By matching our benchmarks with these critical funds, we're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept."

Coming from someone other than President Bush, this might actually mean something. But coming from him, it means nothing. Last year, Congress authorized and funded a significant border fence -- not only has nothing been done on it, but this new immigration bill actually significantly reduces the distance of this fence.

Even if such a fence is symbolic to an extent, he has never explained why a bill that Congress passed and funded was ignored. This was not some non-binding resolution -- and he didn't veto it.

In the recent dead-tree issue cover story in National Review, John O'Sullivan (himself a legal immigrant) penned an article entitled "Comprehensively Awful." He notes:

Worksite arrests for immigration violations, for instance, fell sharply under (President Bush,) to a mere 159 in 2004 from a high of several thousand under President Clinton -- a decline of something like 97% (and 9/11 had occurred in the meantime.)

Yet whenever a debate on immigration is pending, the feds mount a dramatic workplace raid. Last April, when an earlier version of the present immigration bill was about to be presented to Congress, federal agents swooped in on plants in 26 states that belonged to a U.S. subsidiary of a Dutch company, IFCO. They arrested 1187 illegal-immigrant workers and deported 275 of them.

...four-fifths of those arrested were released into the community almost immediately.

But as illegal immigration became a hotter issue, 2006... 716 people were charged with criminal violation of immigration law. That compares with only 25 criminal arrests back in 2002 -- and testifies to the fact that immigration was a major political issue throughout this period. An even larger raid than that on IFCO was launched later in the year, with success.

However useful politically, and however episodic, these raids tend to undercut one of the main arguments offered for the bill by its proponents: the idea that we simply can't mount workplace raids, arrest violators...

So, President Bush, who gained the nomination and election in no small part by making it clear that he was going to model his presidency more on Reagan than on his father, should understand the message he will doubtless be sent by most Senate Republicans (and, we assume, by our Montana Democratic Senators, along with a few other Democrats) -- "trust but verify."

In other words, spending $4.4 billion -- or whatever it takes -- on border security is nothing that should be special. It should have been done for the last 6 years. Americans shouldn't have to be forced to accept amnesty for 20 million illegal immigrants, a guest-worker program, etc. in order to bribe the President into doing his job, or certain Congressmen into doing theirs.

Law-abiding would-be immigrants waiting in line shouldn't have to accept a bill that allows people who broke the law to cut in line in front of them. Besides being unfair, it sends a terrible message to all new Americans: America is a country that respects the rule of law, except when when it's inconvenient or uncomfortable.

When strict border and workplace enforcement is actually reliably taking place (and, by the way, this should first and foremost mean charging employers with violations and giving them punishment that really hurts -- not just deporting illegal workers,) then it will be time to take stock of what to do with the illegal immigrants who are already here. Not before.

Given President Bush's record, there really is no point in even pretending that this can happen until his is out of office.

Speaking of which, O'Sullivan comments, "If those Democrats who want to impeach President Bush had a sense of humor, they would cite his immigration record at the head of the indictment."

The sad part of his quip is that the word "impeachment" is actually being bandied about by some level-headed conservatives due to the fact that Bush has grossly failed to enforce our borders (post 9/11 no less) by comparison to the President we actually did impeach.

It's that bad.

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