One of President Bush's most recent "compassionate" initiatives has indirectly led to more horrific deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border. Bush's proposal for a quasi-amnesty for illegal aliens has been interpreted by poor Mexicans as a welcome mat, increasing the rate of attempted border crossings and the tragic deaths that go with them. Sixty-one people have died along the Arizona border since last October, a threefold increase from the rate of the previous year.
The bodies are a testament to America's broken immigration system. If we really want to encourage more Mexicans to come here, we should have the decency to help ensure their safe passage. If we don't -- as most politicians, including Bush, would maintain -- then all talk of any sort of amnesty should be dropped, and our seriousness about enforcing immigration laws should be broadcast so clearly that it is understood even in the far reaches of Mexico.
Poor Mexicans don't follow every intricacy of America's political debate, but they get the message when the president is proposing to reward illegal entry into the United States. "Political officials need to realize that their words have consequences," says Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. "Just hypothesizing out loud about an amnesty has real effects." Some illegals are shocked that they are arrested coming across the border: "Hey, where's my amnesty?"
During the first six months of this fiscal year, apprehensions have increased roughly 25 percent across the Southwest, and 50 percent near Tucson. The Bush administration argues that the increased apprehensions are a sign of the success of increased enforcement. But just a few weeks ago, an administration official told Congress that decreased apprehensions prior to this recent spike were a sign of the success of increased enforcement. According to the Bush administration apparently, anything that happens on the border is a success.
The lure for the latest wave of illegals was a Bush proposal in January, effectively to legalize illegal immigrants here with jobs, and give work visas to Mexicans who have work lined up. Eventually the reverberations from Bush's proposal in Mexico will settle down, but there will inevitably be some other signal that the United States doesn't care about its immigration laws. Ted Kennedy recently saw Bush's quasi-amnesty and raised it with a proposal, in effect, for a blanket amnesty.