The problem is not only the increased wear and tear on American highways that U.S. taxpayers will subsidize, and not even the crowding of the roads that will make driving less pleasant for us all, but it's worry about safety. That concern is real, even if you don't buy Teamsters President Jim Hoffa's statement, "They are playing a game of Russian roulette on American's highways." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff assures us he is "committed to retaining a high level of security and safety standards under this program." But we are entitled to disbelieve his promise; Michael Chertoff is impudently repudiating Congress's Secure Fence Act and the president's much photographed pre-election signing of the Act.
Del Rio, Texas, Mayor Efrain Valdez boasted on Feb. 22 that "Secretary Chertoff stated publicly after the meeting (with Texas border mayors) that Texas doesn't need a fence."
Maybe Chertoff will give us "virtual" safety standards like the "virtual fence" he sometimes talks about. At the present time, only about 2 percent of trucks coming across the border are inspected, so drug dealers consider it a cost of doing business that a few of their illegal loads will be caught.
U.S. truck drivers must meet strict requirements that include enforcement of hours, regular physicals, age limits, and drug and alcohol tests. We have no way of telling how many hours Mexican truck drivers have been on the road before they reach our border inspectors.
Mexico has no limits on how many hours a driver can drive a truck, and no credible drug testing of drivers. The Mexican trucking industry, with few exceptions, has never successfully been monitored, much less supervised. National Transportation Safety Board member Deborah A.P. Hersman doubts that we have the personnel to take on the additional work of sending inspectors to Mexico. She says we already lack enough inspectors to conduct safety reviews of at-risk domestic carriers.
Over the last several years, there have been many fatal accidents caused by cars and trucks driven by Mexicans, legal and illegal. The most tragic and costly truck accident in Midwest history, resulting in the incineration of Rev. Scott Willis' six children in 1994, was caused by a Mexican truck driver's inability to comprehend warnings in the English language.
Secretary Peters claims Mexican drivers will be able to understand English, but we are entitled to doubt Bush's enforcement of the English-language regulation. Mexican drivers unfamiliar with our roads and signage, plus language incompatibility, are a danger to all driving Americans.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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