President Bush, it is reasonable to assume, would like to be remembered as a hard-nosed wartime leader who made tough and unpopular, yet necessary, decisions to secure the United States against terrorism.
He will not deserve it -- and history is likely to record something quite different -- if he fails to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws.
If massive numbers of illegal aliens are still streaming across our southern frontier on Jan. 20, 2009, and if major U.S. corporations are still hiring massive numbers of illegal aliens with impunity, all that Bush has done on the national security front will be overshadowed by a single fact: After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he did not secure the territory of the United States.
History would record that Bush launched two foreign wars, authorized warrantless wiretaps, ran an offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, countenanced water-boarding of known terrorists, and persisted in losing about 100 U.S. troops a month in Iraq in an effort to establish a democracy in the midst of a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Islamists all because he understood that defending America against Islamic terrorists was the defining security issue of his day.
Yet, despite all this, history would say, Bush allowed thousands of unknown and unidentified people to stream across America's border every day.
And, despite all this, he not only allowed big businesses to systematically hire illegal aliens using other people's Social Security numbers, he also allowed them to year after year file millions of false W-2s with the IRS on behalf of these illegal aliens, thereby feeding and perpetuating a massive black market for document fraud known to have been exploited by the 9/11 terrorists.
When history indicted President Bush for negligence in national security, his own rhetoric -- and the rhetoric of his top lieutenant's -- would be leading exhibits in the case against him.
On April 20, shortly after he began his latest push for legislation to grant amnesty to illegal aliens, Bush gave a lengthy speech in Grand Rapids, Mich., explaining why the United States must persevere in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, he argued that the war over there is about our security here.
"Our enemies make no distinction based on borders," he said. "They view the world as a giant battlefield and will strike wherever they can."
He made clear he was talking about al Qaeda.
"According to a captured al Qaeda document, according to what al Qaeda has made clear, their goal is to take over the Anbar province and make it their home base for Iraq," Bush explained. "That would bring them closer to their stated objective of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and having safe haven from which to launch attacks on the United States's citizens here at home or abroad."
In this same vein, the Bush administration has advised the public about intelligence it has gathered that indicates al Qaeda has at least considered sneaking terrorists across our southern border.
On May 1, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff conceded that border security is above all else about stopping terrorists. "First," said Chertoff, "I have to say that allowing unrestricted, illegal immigration through uncontrolled borders in a post-Sept. 11 world is a recipe for trouble. And that's why the debate over immigration reform, particularly after 9/11, takes a special urgency. That's why we take border security very seriously."
Exactly, Mr. Chertoff. If the risk of a terrorist attack on the United States is great enough to justify sustaining 100 casualties a month to stop al Qaeda from finding sanctuary in Iraq, it is great enough to justify the non-lethal policies it would take to secure our own border and our own worksites to stop al Qaeda from finding sanctuary on our own territory.
So far, President Bush has offered the nation a quid pro quo: He will enforce our border and our immigration laws in the future as long as he can grant amnesty today to those who have already violated our border and broken our immigration laws.
If Bush persists in this line, history will remember him for the price he demanded from the American people in return for agreeing to do his simple duty as commander in chief.