Bordering on insanity

Posted: May 28, 2005 12:00 AM

So, are you feeling more secure these days?

After all, it?s been more than three and a half years since September 11, and we haven?t suffered another attack on our soil. To put that in perspective, by this long after Pearl Harbor, the war was almost over. We?d defeated Germany and occupied its territory. The war against Japan was also just about finished.

But the war against terrorism is a very different type of war, one that we seem to be taking less seriously. For example, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced it had arrested 60 illegal immigrants working at 12 critical infrastructure sites.

Frighteningly, our government doesn?t know who these people are or where they came from. ?Not only are their identities in question, but given their illegal status, these individuals are vulnerable to potential exploitation by terrorist and other criminal organizations,? Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Michael J. Garcia announced.

It?s not simply power plants, pipelines, petrochemical facilities and airports (more than 1,000 undocumented workers have been arrested at airports) that are at risk. A congressional report notes that groups of illegal immigrants routinely tramp across Fort Huachuca, a military base in Arizona. More than 3,000 illegals were detained on the base last year. The Washington Times reports that immigrants ?routinely wander through base housing units, drink from hoses and pools, and trample through the yards of military families and other private areas.?

Fort Huachuca is home to the army?s leading intelligence school and several units of the DHS. If we can?t protect that base from illegals, it?s worth wondering exactly what we can protect.

Getting illegal immigration under control is a key mission in the war against terror. After all, a country that doesn?t control its borders won?t be a country for long. Sadly, the government?s plans to protect us don?t inspire much confidence.

In April, DHS announced a plan to require anyone crossing the border from Mexico or Canada to show a passport. That rule could take effect in 2008, but it wouldn?t do much except inconvenience those of us who are already law-abiding citizens. We?ll face longer lines and hassles at border checkpoints, while undocumented immigrants just keep doing what they?re already doing: Slipping across the border at unmanned spots, walking across military bases (if one happens to be in their path) and entering the workforce.

Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., have introduced what amounts to an illegal-immigrant amnesty bill. If it becomes law, millions of illegal workers could eventually gain citizenship. They?d simply have to pay $1,000 and work for six years before seeking permanent residency.

That would make little sense. If you reward people who are here illegally, you?re simply going to encourage more people to come illegally. It would be better to offer illegals $1,000 to leave.
After all, there are up to 12 million illegals in the United States right now. Even if we decided to round them up and send them home, we couldn?t do it. We simply don?t have the manpower or the jail space. But they might return home if there was a financial incentive. And we could then give them amnesty of a sort, by allowing them to return -- as long as they do so legally.

At the same time, we should enforce our existing laws. It?s already illegal to hire someone who doesn?t have a social security number, for example. We ought to put the IRS on the case. That agency strikes fear into the hearts of legal Americans -- let?s have it go after the employers who hire illegals. If these employers start facing penalties, they?ll no longer have an incentive to hire illegals and, eventually, the flow of illegals will dry up.

Not everyone is going to like it if we do all this. Recently, Mexican President Vicente Fox waded into our immigration debate. He defended Mexicans who have crossed into the U.S. illegally by claiming they ?are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States.?

Fox seems to have forgotten which country he?s the leader of. Even if every illegal went home, they?d still be legal Mexican citizens. It?s here in the U.S. that they?re illegal, and thus a concern. Of course, if all those people returned, Mexico would need to build an economy that can provide for all its citizens, instead of simply exporting so many of them.

The key is to limit illegal immigration and make sure our government has a handle on exactly who is coming across our borders. Until that happens, we won?t be as safe as we need to be.