A serious stop sign

Posted: Aug 05, 2005 12:00 AM

When John Roberts comes before the Senate for his confirmation hearings, there’s sure to be plenty of hand wringing about Roe v. Wade. Never mind that the so-called right to privacy isn’t found in the Constitution. By digging into the tiny details of the legal arguments involved, lawmakers hope to show us how devoted they are to doing their jobs.

Meanwhile, Congress is ignoring one of its most important jobs -- one that actually is in the Constitution. It’s not adequately “providing for the common defense” because it’s not protecting our borders.

Nobody knows how many illegal immigrants now live in the United States. Recent estimates range from 11 million to 20 million. Faced with that problem, you’d expect Congress to do everything possible to shore up our borders and stop the flow of new illegals. Sadly, it’s not.

Several months ago a correspondent from southern California decided to visit the Mexican border. He found that “in the (populated, highly-patrolled, well-fenced, URBAN) west end of San Diego County there were 10 agents patrolling a 10-mile zone. One four-mile swath had zero agents.”

One agent per mile of border? No wonder those few agents are overwhelmed. This isn’t a lack of ability -- it’s a lack of effort. The government is making no serious attempt to stop the flood of illegals.

My correspondent, a nurse at an L.A.-area hospital, was so appalled he decided to join a Minuteman patrol team and help the Border Patrol protect the frontier. With just a few volunteers on the scene, the picture a few weeks later was much different. “We shut down four miles of border with 16 people, eight large flashlights, and four cell phones, and didn’t pull out until sunup,” he reports.

The solution, then, is simple. “Just having enough people would solve the problem instantly. My estimate is that if someone got 500 people to show up per night statewide, the entire illegal traffic along the border of 150 miles from Yuma to the Pacific Ocean could be stopped dead,” the man writes. “California wouldn’t have an illegal immigration problem.” And, thus, neither would the rest of the nation. But it’s up to Congress to act, to provide enough agents and position them along the borders.

Illegal immigrants cause a wealth of problems. “Many gang members come to this country from overseas, or from other parts of the North and South American continent,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff notes. In fact, Chertoff says immigration officers have detained more than 1,000 alleged gang members since February, and he estimates 950 of them were illegals.

This is a local problem as well. The town of Herndon, Va. is inundated with day laborers. They gather at a convenience store and wait for employers to offer them jobs. The town, resigned to the idea that it can’t prevent the workers from gathering, is considering whether to set aside a designated gathering place. “Our choice is between having a regulated site and an unregulated site,” Mayor Michael L. O'Reilly told The Washington Post. “Given those options, I’m in favor of a regulated site.”

The paper noted that, “an unknown number of [the day laborers] are in the country illegally.” But the only reason we don’t know how many of those waiting for jobs are illegals is because we haven’t checked.

Here’s a simple solution: Local police should take note of the license plate number every time a car picks up day laborers. Pass that information along to the IRS to see if the driver filed 1099 forms for the laborers he hired. The attraction of hiring day laborers is that employers can pay them cash. No questions asked, no forms filed.

But federal law requires that employers collect Social Security taxes on everyone they employ. Crack down on the employers, force them to check for Social Security numbers, and you’ll drastically cut down on the number of illegal immigrants getting jobs.

“This country has a great Constitution. It’s supposed to be justice for all. Some people think it’s just justice for them,” Lucio Escobar, a 47-year-old Herndon resident who immigrated from El Salvador 30 years ago, told the Post.

 Well, the Constitution does guarantee justice for all -- all U.S. citizens. It’s time for Congress to get serious about protecting our borders and cracking down on illegal immigration. Until lawmakers do that, their discussions about protecting the Constitution will amount to little more than hot air.