Were Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's Miami meanderings a gaffe, a trial balloon, an announcement of his department's policy, or an announcement of Bush administration policy?
We are entitled to know.
His shocking words were a broadside on current law: "We have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegal aliens, afford them some kind of legal status some way." He pointedly did not say we have to come to grips with 8 to 12 million people who have violated our laws by entering our country illegally, and further violated our laws by using fraudulent documents to get jobs and remain here.
Nor did he say we have to come to grips with the thousands of employers who are violating our laws by hiring illegal aliens, and violating additional laws by paying the illegal aliens in the underground economy in order to avoid our laws about minimum wage, overtime, workers' compensation, unemployment compensation, family leave, Americans with disabilities, payroll taxes, etc.
Ridge didn't elaborate on how he would award "some kind of legal status," nor explain how giving legal status is any different from granting amnesty. What part of illegal doesn't Ridge understand?
Continuing, Ridge said his plan is to "legalize their presence, then, as a country, you make a decision that from this day forward, this is the process of entry, and if you violate that process of entry we have the resources to cope with it."
But we've been there, done that. In 1986, the United States granted what was promised to be a one-time legalization - then honestly called amnesty. That sent a message to others to enter illegally and wait for the next amnesty.
The administrations of Presidents Bush I, Clinton and Bush II have flagrantly failed to use our resources "to cope with" those who afterward violated the "process of entry." And so the illegal-alien problem quadrupled.
Not only did the 1986 amnesty transform millions of illegal aliens into lawful permanent residents, but after they became U.S. citizens they could import their relatives. Congress never investigated how many additional millions entered the United States or the massive document fraud that was involved in the process.
The current President Bush was asked to clarify his policy. He responded: "I have constantly said that we need to have an immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee.
"It makes sense that that policy go forward. And we're in the process of working that through now."
No, that does not make sense. First, it's an all-out repudiation of current law, and second, up to 5 billion people in the world might want to be "willing employees" in the United States.
Bush didn't limit the number of "willing employees." An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Mexicans every year cross illegally into the United States looking for work.
Thousands of these have died from thirst and dehydration in the desert or in locked vans, or from drowning, or from crimes committed by their smugglers. The Bush's administration's failure to close the border makes the payoff of getting into the United States worth the risk of death.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan repeated Bush's exact words and added, "Migration should be safe, orderly and humane." But Congress and the American people never authorized "migration." We only authorized immigration under certain laws.
Bush claims he is "against blanket amnesty," but "blanket" is his weasel word. He apparently is for amnesty for the 8 to 12 million illegal aliens already in this country.
Amnesty for illegal aliens comes disguised under various euphemisms. These include guest worker program, Mexican ID cards, the DREAM Act (to give in-state college tuition), driver's licenses, 245(i) visas, H-1B and L-1 visas, free hospital care, anchor babies, and "totalization," which is to give Social Security benefits.
Ridge says that illegal aliens in the United States should be given "some kind of legal status" because most are not a threat to national security. That's an irrelevancy. Most passengers who boarded those four fatal planes on Sept. 11, 2001, were not hijackers, but 19 of them were, and Ridge has no plan to separate the terrorists from the 300,000 or more who cross our borders illegally every year.
According to the Washington Post, Karl Rove is designing the White House plan and the president will present his proposal the second week of January, shortly before his trip to Monterrey, Mexico.
Asa Hutchinson, Homeland Security's undersecretary for border and transportation security, says the Bush and Ridge remarks simply reflect the ongoing debate in Congress over the immigration issue. If that's so, then it's time for Congress to hear loud and clear from the two-thirds of Americans, according to a Zogby International poll, who believe that foreigners residing illegally in the United States should not be allowed to stay.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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