Thomas Sowell

Of all the insults to our intelligence in the current discussions of immigration legislation, the biggest insult is the claim that border control legislation and legislation on the illegal immigrants already in the country must go together.

Why? What will happen if they are done separately? And who will be worse off?

The claim that the two pieces of legislation must be passed at the same time has been repeated endlessly. But endless repetition is not a coherent argument.

At the heart of this issue is the question whether Congress and the Bush administration are serious about controlling the borders and about letting the number and kind of immigrants allowed into this country be decided in the United States, not in Mexico.

Whatever number and kind of immigrants the United States wants to admit into this country, that decision means nothing unless that limit is enforced at the borders. Nor is there any way to know in advance how effective any particular method of border control will turn out to be in practice.

The only way to know whether fences, national guardsmen or anything else will work is to wait and see before issuing blanket amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, virtually guaranteeing that millions more will follow, as has happened in the past.

A Congressional package deal is not about border control. It is about trying to get the Hispanic vote without losing the votes of other Americans. It is about allowing politicians to vote on both sides of this issue to cover themselves politically.

Once such legislation passes, the guarantee to illegals is immediate and its consequences permanent for them and for successive generations of their offspring. But what actually happens at the border is left up in the air.

It may be significant that, with all the talk about the preconditions to be set for illegal immigrants to get American citizenship, nothing has been said about one of the easiest ways of getting American citizenship, without having to learn English or do anything else.

Pregnant women from Mexico simply walk across the border and have their babies in American hospitals. This creates an instant American citizen who cannot be deported and whose family members would be hard to deport.

Those who claim to want to "control the borders" with this package-deal legislation don't even talk about this, much less try to do anything about it.

Let's return to the question of what would happen if border control legislation were to be voted on separately from amnesty legislation, instead of in the current package deal.

Thomas Sowell

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

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