President Bush has rediscovered illegal immigration as a political issue. After previously focusing on "welcoming" all who come to America by whatever means, the president spent most of his recent speech in Tucson, Ariz., sounding like Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who has been the most vocal proponent of sealing U.S. borders to illegal aliens.
Ninety percent of the speech was about the president's new "get tough" policy. The rest focused on his "guest worker" program, which is amnesty by whatever name he calls it. He says he wants to end the government's "catch and release" policy in which non-Mexican illegals are apprehended, detained and then released, but that there aren't enough beds in detention centers to hold all of those apprehended. By some estimates, sufficient housing won't be available for at least six years.
There are many "sounds good" proposals in the president's speech and his remarks might have more credibility had they come immediately after 9/11. An unknown number of people crossing our borders have no interest in building homes; they wish only to destroy America's "home."
According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), of the 94 foreign-born terrorists who operated in the United States between the early 1990s and 2004 about two-thirds (59) committed immigration fraud prior to or in conjunction with taking part in terrorist activity. Of the 59 terrorists who violated the law, many committed multiple immigration violations. In 47 instances, immigration benefits sought or acquired prior to 9/11 enabled the terrorists to stay in the United States after 9/11 and continue their terrorist activities. In at least two instances, terrorists were still able to acquire immigration benefits after 9/11.
The president acknowledged that, "securing our border is essential to securing the homeland." Absent from the speech were proposals to sanction businesses that knowingly hire illegals. As long as there is a demand for cheap labor and insufficient disincentives, they will continue to come. It is why the government has had minimal success curtailing illegal drug shipments. Demand produces supply.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center and the Center for Immigration Studies, there are nearly 11 million illegal aliens in the United States, of which approximately 7 million are workers. In 2002, it was estimated that households headed by illegal aliens used $10 billion more in government services than they paid in taxes. They cost California taxpayers $10.5 billion in education, medical and other expenses.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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