Nearly five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, our borders remain porous. The deportation system remains broken. The government's tracking systems for criminal illegal aliens and visa overstayers remain incomplete. So, what's Washington's latest homeland security solution?
"Gold Cards" for illegal aliens.
I kid you not.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee began debate on a proposal by Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that would create a "Gold Card" program for illegal aliens who broke the law to get into the United States before Jan. 4, 2004. Applicants for the Gold Card would supposedly undergo a background check by the Department of Homeland Security, then be eligible for two-year work visas that could be renewed indefinitely.
If that isn't the dictionary definition of amnesty, I don't know what is. Indeed, Specter's plan amounts to an unprecedented mass governmental pardon for millions of immigration law-breakers (plus their spouses, children and, by extension, their employers). There's nothing in his measure that bars Gold Card holders from obtaining eventual U.S. citizenship.
This proposal is a gargantuan political and bureaucratic disaster. It's a slap in the face to millions of naturalized Americans who followed the rules to follow their dreams, and to millions more legal applicants who are waiting in line to get here. Open-borders activists talk dreamily of bringing illegal aliens "out of the shadows" and into the American mainstream, while snubbing all the legal immigrants who have never hid from the law, disguised their true identities or otherwise deceived authorities to live and work in the United States.
Which side is the party of law and order on, anyway?
Amnesty-pushers argue that the Gold Card plan for illegal aliens is the only way to "deal with reality" and that immediate mass deportation is "not practical." Phony arguments. The reality is that the massive chasm at Ground Zero was facilitated by lax immigration enforcement. Business as usual is a recipe for another gaping hole. The policy decision is not between mass amnesty and mass deportation. It is a matter of prioritizing: Will Washington put enforcement first or not? Will it clean house, strengthen the borders and support rank-and-file interior enforcement employees, investigators, detention and deportation officers, and Border Patrol agents? Or will it undermine them?
Will it punish employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens? Or will it abet them? Will it enforce the laws on the books and make sure there are sanctions for immigration law-breaking? Or will it ignore those laws and create more incentives, rewards and chaos instead?
Here's more of a reality check. The Department of Homeland Security is in an abysmal position to screen millions of Gold Card applicants (not to mention the untold numbers of con artists who have entered the country illegally since Jan. 4, 2004, and would try to game the system). Specter's proposal gives the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau at DHS 18 months to conduct background checks for an estimated 10 million applicants -- on top of the 7 million it already can't handle. According to a draft government report obtained by The Washington Times this week, fraud is so rampant at the bureau that it can't tell how much there is and will not have a fraud-management system in place until 2011. The USCIS director of the agency's Office of Security and Investigations resigned last month because of lack of support for investigative and enforcement priorities.
Bill West, who served nearly three decades in federal immigration enforcement and retired as chief of the National Security Section for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2003, warns at The Counterterrorism Blog: "Immigration benefit fraud is hugely widespread, and the resources to attack it are few and spread very thinly. The proposed new immigration policies floating between the administration and Congress . . . if passed will only overtax our already overwhelmed immigration agencies beyond the breaking point."
Meanwhile, the rest of us chumps should figure out how to break some laws and get ahold of the handy Get Out of Jail Free/Gold Card. I heard it's going to come with frequent flyer miles, too.
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