Charles Krauthammer
WASHINGTON -- I do not doubt the president's sincerity in wanting to humanize and regularize the lives of America's 11 million illegal aliens. But good intentions are not enough. For decades, the well-traveled road from the Mexican border to the barrios of Los Angeles has been paved with such intentions. They begat the misguided immigration policy that created the crisis that necessitated the speech that purports to offer, finally, the ``comprehensive'' solution.

Hardly. The critical element -- border enforcement -- is farcical. President Bush promises to increase the number of border agents. That was promised in the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty legislation in 1986. The result was 11 million new illegals.

The president himself boasted about having already increased the number of border guards by one-third under his administration. Yet he acknowledges in the same speech that we do not have the border under control -- "full control,'' as he comically put it. The president's new solution? Increase the number of border guards again, by half this time. Everyone knows that anything short of enough border guards to do Hands Across America from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean won't do a thing to eliminate illegal immigration.

The only thing that might work is a physical barrier. The president offhandedly dismisses a wall as something that could never stop the "enormous pressure on our border.''

By what logic? Opponents pretend that these barriers can always be circumvented by, say, tunnels or clandestine entry by sea. Such arguments are transparently unserious. You're hardly going to get 500,000 illegals lining up outside a tunnel or on a pier. Such choke points are exactly how you would turn the current river of illegals into narrow streams -- which is all we need to turn the illegal immigration problem from out of control to eminently manageable.

President Bush's enforcement provisions were advertised as an attempt to appease conservatives. This is odd. Are conservatives the only ones who think that unlimited, unregulated immigration is a detriment to the Republic? Do liberals really believe in a de facto policy that depresses the wages of the poorest and most desperate Americans, African-Americans most prominently among them? Do liberals believe that the number, social class, educational level, background and country of origin of immigrants -- the kinds of decisions every democratic country makes for itself -- should be taken out of the hands of the American citizenry and left to the immigrants themselves, and in particular, to those most willing to break the very immigration regulations the American people have decided upon democratically?

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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