Americans are not naive enough to believe the sensational headline and opening paragraphs of news accounts about Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's recent testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was reported to have said that Homeland Security will "Return every single illegal entrant - no exceptions."
That's a correct quote, but Chertoff's prepared text proves that he certainly won't start tomorrow to expel and exclude "every single" illegal immigrant who crosses our border. His statement refers only to the Other Than Mexicans whom our undermanned Border Patrol agents actually catch.
Those are the illegal immigrants who are the beneficiaries of a Bush administration racket called "catch and release." OTMs are caught, charged as immigration law violators, and then immediately released on their own recognizance, which allows them to disappear into the American population.
Chertoff admitted that 130,000 OTMs received this treatment in 2005 alone. He acts as though he just discovered this travesty when in fact "catch and release" has been government policy for years.
Furthermore, Chertoff didn't promise immediate action; he is just "taking steps" to change it, "re-engineering" our removal process, and expecting "significant progress in less than a year." Meanwhile, Chertoff admitted that "catch and release" acts as an enticement for additional illegal immigrants to enter our country.
Chertoff told the Senate committee that he already has "aggressive efforts under way" to ensure that employers who violate current laws "face appropriate punishment."
At least 10 million illegal immigrants are now working in the United States, but only three employers in the entire nation were fined in 2004.
In his Saturday radio address, President George W. Bush bragged, "We've doubled the resources for work site enforcement since 2004." Does that mean we can expect six employers to be fined next year?
Obviously, Chertoff has no plans to do anything about the 10 million immigrants who already entered illegally and are now living across the country from Maine to California.
It's hard to take Chertoff's promises seriously when they are prefaced by the false braggadocio, "President Bush has placed the utmost importance on border security."
The latest 28-question opinion survey circulated to donors by the Republican Party does not include even one question about illegal immigrants or immigration, further manifesting the Bush administration policy of sweeping this issue under the rug.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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