Thomas Sowell

Social Security used to be called the third rail of politics but illegal immigration is the real third rail that both political parties are afraid to touch.

 Cops who find illegal aliens are under orders not to turn them in to the feds. And the federal government's own border guards have their hands tied by the higher-ups as well.

 Now that Hispanics are the largest minority in the country, and with the country closely divided politically, neither party wants to risk alienating the Hispanic vote by enforcing immigration laws.

 Many other Americans may be outraged at the way illegal aliens are handled with kid gloves -- and, in some places, even given rights normally reserved for citizens -- but so long as this outrage is directed at both parties, neither party wants to be the one to risk losing the Hispanic vote.

 America's weakness in controlling its borders has only promoted contempt for the United States on the part of the Mexican government, which publishes instructions to help people illegally get into this country and offers helpful hints on how to take advantage of American welfare state benefits.

 When some Americans living near the border in Arizona organized themselves to watch that border and report on people crossing it illegally, the media immediately demonized them as "vigilantes," even though these observers used no violence and inflicted no punishment.

 When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he would welcome such observers on California's borders, there was another media outcry against him.

There is a reason why illegal immigration is the third rail of politics. Not only is there a fear of losing the Hispanic vote, there is a fear of being demonized in the media and therefore losing other votes as well.

 Among the intelligentsia, there have long been those who think of themselves as citizens of the world, and who think of national borders as just arbitrary lines drawn on a map. In addition to those with these liberal attitudes, there are some conservatives who think that we need workers from Mexico to do work that Americans will not do.

 Virtually every job in the country is work that Americans will not do, if the pay is below a certain level. And the pay will not rise to that level so long as illegal immigrants -- "undocumented workers" -- are available to work for less.

 Even those who write editorials about how we need Mexicans to do work that Americans will not do would not be willing to write editorials for a fraction of what they are being paid. If Mexican editorial writers were coming across the border illegally and taking their jobs, maybe the issue would become clearer.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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