Tears and toughness

Posted: Nov 16, 2001 12:00 AM
The victims of American Airlines Flight 587 and their families deserve our deepest sympathy and prayers. But compassion must not override vigilance. Our resolve to enforce immigration laws in the wake of Sept. 11 must not be weakened. According to the Associated Press, several crash relatives who are in this country illegally want amnesty so they can bury their loved ones in the Dominican Republic and then be allowed to return to the U.S. "Anguished families are torn between claiming a victim and jeopardizing their ability to stay in their adopted country,'' said Hispanic community leader Fernando Mateo. One illegal alien widowed in the crash, Rosanna Jacqueline Valdez, cried as she described her plight through a Spanish interpreter. She was married to Flight 587 passenger Whilman Rosa "for 13 years, and all I want to do is to take my husband home,'' she said. Her husband's brother is also an illegal alien living in the U.S., and "unless there is an amnesty, no one will be able to take her husband's body back to his native country." This is truly a heartbreaking predicament. But these family members are illegal immigrants who chose to break the law -- to cut in line in front of the millions of other people around the world who aspire to be Americans. They should accept the consequences of their actions. They are not entitled to be here. Their "ability to stay in their adopted country" without proper screening and legal authorization is not a divine right. If they want to come back, they should queue up like everyone else and enter through the front door. We need a Tough Noogies policy, with no exceptions, when it comes to alien lawbreakers who violate the rules and then complain about unfairness when they're caught. This nation's credibility and security are at stake. A network of foreign thugs waltzed through our ports of entry with the approval of our State Department and INS, obtained Social Security numbers and driver's licenses, bought fake state residency papers from another illegal immigrant, and then murdered thousands of our citizens. They exploited our cultural laxity and largesse toward alien line-jumpers. They turned the system that opens up the American Dream to all into America's Worst Nightmare. How can we crack down on terrorist-linked aliens with fake papers and expired visas if our elected leaders go running to the feds every time some other politically connected constituency demands special treatment and new immigration-law loopholes for their alien population? New York's two Democrat senators are already hard at work pandering to the influential Hispanic lobby. According to the AP, Sen. Charles Schumer has worked out an agreement with the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, to expedite visas for family members wishing to come to the United States. And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "she would be trying to work with the INS on the problem, as well as helping individual families through her office." This is the kind of expeditious corner-cutting and politicized "problem-solving" that got us into trouble in the first place. A wink here, a nod there, and soon the country is teeming with criminal aliens who have absolutely no respect for the rule of law and no allegiance to their new home. Both political parties bear responsibility for weakening the pillars of American citizenship. It was Sen. Clinton's husband who launched the "Citizenship USA" campaign in 1996 to speed up naturalization for more than a million aliens. Nearly 200,000 never underwent required fingerprint checks. More than 80,000 had disqualifying criminal records. With bipartisan support, Congress passed the Section 245(i) loophole that allows illegal aliens to pay $1,000 for amnesty and adjust their immigration status without having to leave the country and apply for visas through their native countries. And only weeks before Sept. 11, President Bush -- whose strategists hunger for approval from the Latino lobby -- was toying with an amnesty proposal espoused by Mexican president Vicente Fox. Amnesty means looking the other way as illegal aliens hop the fence and disappear into the American landscape. Haven't we paid a high enough price for such myopic hospitality?