It looks like Americans will soon have two more Dubai-Ports/Harriet Miers moments. President George W. Bush has climbed out on a limb and it is about to get sawed off because he is clearly flouting the wishes of the American people. While Bush was using the platform of his departure from Sydney, Australia, to blast "protectionism" and pledge his commitment to "free trade," the Department of Transportation was proving that the president values unfair trade with foreign countries above protection of U.S. safety and jobs.
At 9 p.m. Sept. 6, the Bush administration opened up all U.S. highways and roads to Mexican trucks and drivers. That gave the green light to the first 38 of up to 100 Mexican trucking companies. Nobody knows how many thousands of Mexican trucks will eventually drive on U.S. roads.
Bush thumbed his nose at the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 411-3 on May 15, and again July 24 by voice vote, to prohibit the entry of Mexican trucks. White House pressure prevented a vote in the U.S. Senate.
For 25 years, Mexican trucks had been restricted to a commercial zone of about 25 miles in the United States, where their loads were transferred to U.S. trucks. President Bill Clinton, bless him, kept this restriction in place. Since 1977, U.S. law required that commercial drivers be able to "read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records."
It is not believable that the Bush administration will test the language skills of the thousands of Mexican drivers crossing our border. Mexican drivers unfamiliar with our roads and signage, plus language incompatibility, will be a danger to all U.S. drivers.
We have no way of knowing if Mexican drivers are criminals or terrorists or drug peddlers or accident-prone because Mexico doesn't have nationwide criminal or driving-record databases. The professional Mexican drug smuggler who testified against U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean was a legally licensed Mexican commercial truck driver.
U.S. truck drivers are limited to 10 consecutive hours of service per day, but Mexican drivers typically drive up to 20 hours a day. Even if Mexican drivers are now limited to 10 hours per day, nobody knows how many hours they are behind the wheel before reaching the border.
Big corporations are eager to have their inexpensively produced Mexican or Chinese products delivered in the United States by Mexican drivers because they are paid 33 percent to 40 percent less than U.S. truckers. As Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said, "Commercial interests are being pushed ahead of the safety and security interests of the American people."
Only 1 percent to 2 percent of trucks coming across the border are inspected. The smugglers of illegal drugs, products and people can merely consider it a cost of doing business when so few illegal loads will be caught.
The problem is not only the increased wear and tear on U.S. highways that U.S. taxpayers will subsidize, and not only the crowding of U.S. roads that will make driving less pleasant, but it's worry about safety. Anyone who does much driving on U.S. highways knows how crowded with big rigs those highways are.
The other Dubai Ports/Harriet Miers moment will be Sept 14, the first anniversary of the overwhelming, 283-138 passage in the House of the Secure Fence Act. The Senate subsequently passed it 80-19, and President Bush signed it into law on Oct. 26 in front of TV cameras.
This law ordered the government to build an 854-mile fence along our U.S.-Mexico border. After one year, the Bush administration has built only 18 miles. This failure - or refusal - to obey the law makes us believe that Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff do not intend to build the fence, and is a prime example of why the U.S. people don't trust their government. The government could hire eight construction firms to simultaneously build 100 miles of the fence and offer a bonus for the company that first completes its 100 miles.
The only rational explanation for the president's stubborn determination to override the wishes of the American people by opening up all our roads to Mexican trucks is that this is an essential part of his plan for the economic integration of the United States into a North American Community. The only rational explanation of Bush's refusal to build the fence is that he has no intention of stopping the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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