There's a rigged competition going on in politics that you won't see on television this week. It's the deceptive speed-spending race to fix our immigration enforcement woes. President Bush proposes boosting the Immigration and Naturalization Service's budget by 23 percent, to more than $6.3 billion. Prominent Democrats and Republicans support new appropriations on automated tracking systems, increased border patrols, tamper-proof documents and biometric technology.
More spending equals less illegal immigration, right? Don't be fooled. While Washington creates the illusion of buying more and better homeland defense, public officials continue to sell out to ethnic special interests -- namely, to liberal Hispanic lobbyists who are doing everything in their power to exempt illegal aliens from Mexico from immigration reform.
Longtime reform advocate Dan Stein, who has co-founded a new coalition called United to Secure America (www.secureamerica.info), puts it bluntly: "Both parties are trying to outmaneuver each other on the Hispanic vote. They think they can do a couple of hat tricks and satisfy the public need for security while rewarding law-breaking" with amnesty and other special programs for illegal aliens.
Stein cites the bipartisan legislative push to preserve and expand the Section 245(i) loophole of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It allows illegal aliens to pay a token $1,000 fee to "adjust their status" and obtain green cards if they can find an employer or spouse to sponsor them. This terrorist-friendly provision enables illegal border-crossers and visa overstayers to bypass the usual background checks and vetting processes at consulates in their home countries.
Stein asks: "How can you reward visa overstayers with 245(i) at the same time you are trying to assure the American people that you are committed to visa reform?"
Such dangerous gamesmanship undermines the war on terrorism and weakens respect for the rule of law. Yet, it continues to dominate nationwide:
As we begin to get tough on Middle Easterners who have attempted to obtain illegal driver's licenses, numerous state legislatures are preparing to give driver's licenses to thousands of illegal immigrants.
As we begin to get serious about weeding out foreign students who are in the country illegally, politicians from Nebraska to California to Utah are pushing hard to give in-state college tuition breaks to thousands of aliens here illegally.
As we try to stop Social Security fraud by illegal aliens, the federal government is inviting illegal aliens to queue up in Texas while the Internal Revenue Service doles out taxpayer ID numbers for them -- and promises not to turn them in to immigration authorities.
As we try to encourage legal permanent residents to naturalize and embrace the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, more communities are giving away voting rights to illegal aliens who think it's their entitlement.
As we urge banks to take more precautions against foreign money-laundering, government regulations permit financial institutions to invite illegal aliens to open bank accounts with minimal or no criminal background checks if they present Mexican ID cards.
And as we finally begin to kick out deportation absconders, visa violators and other aliens who threaten our safety, the White House is poised to grant mass amnesty to millions of lawbreakers from south of the border who have little or no interest in embracing our common culture, language, institutions and laws.
Even in the wake of Sept. 11, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Secretary of State Colin Powell and INS Commissioner James Ziglar have all sent positive signals to Mexico about the desire to "regularize" alien lawbreakers. Meanwhile, Karl Rove, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are pulling out all the stops in their quest for Pander-lympic gold. The GOP is sending leaders to Spanish language immersion camps, holding "Hispanic Day" events, and, as Rove put it, making the Latino vote "our mission and our goal" requiring effort of all Republicans "in every way and every day working to get that done."
Political operatives defend this as harmless minority "outreach." But there's a fine line between reaching out and selling out national security for votes. That was supposed to end when Bill Clinton and Al Gore left town. Wasn't it?