- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2004

President Bush’s plan to grant guest-worker status and eventual legalization to millions of illegal aliens now in the United States will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to enforce and could spark a new wave of illegal immigration at the nation’s already-swamped borders, law-enforcement authorities and others said yesterday.

One veteran Border Patrol official, after listening to the president outline the plan during a White House news conference yesterday, called the proposal “insulting,” saying it diminished efforts by agents at America’s borders who risk their lives every day to stop illegal immigration.

“Several thousand illegal aliens crossed into the United States as the president spoke to announce his new program, and I assure you, more are on the way,” said John Frecker, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 9,000 nonsupervisory Border Patrol employees.

Mr. Frecker said the president’s White House announcement should have earned him the Academy Award for best actor, “since about 90 percent of what he said was not true.”

“The border is, maybe, 10 percent more secure than it was prior to September 11, but it is still out of control,” he said. “Before we do anything else, we need to make sure [that] the border is secure, that illegal aliens in the country are being apprehended and that employer sanctions are being enforced.”

Mike Cutler, a retired Immigration and Naturalization Service senior agent who headed major INS investigations into drug trafficking for more than two decades, said the Bush plan is similar to a 1986 amnesty plan that led to the biggest influx of illegal immigration ever.

“We never seem to learn from history,” Mr. Cutler said. “This plan, by whatever name they call it, is amnesty and simply rewards people who have already broken the law. It is an open invitation for many others to seek, by whatever means possible, a piece of the pie.”

Mr. Bush proposed a broad guest-worker program that would allow the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens now in the United States to stay without penalty, making them eligible under existing immigration policies to apply for permanent legal residence and citizenship. The plan requires congressional approval.

Illegal immigrants who prove they have jobs can apply to stay in the country legally for three-year renewable terms. Under the plan, they also may bring family members into the United States and enjoy rights now reserved for Americans and for foreigners with permanent-resident status, including Social Security benefits.

Critics of the plan also question whether it is feasible for an already-overburdened immigration enforcement system to handle the millions of applications — particularly because many of them could include false identity documents. They said only 2,000 agents are available to review the millions of applicants that might be submitted.

“When U.S. immigration officials were tasked with the responsibility of checking immigrants coming into the United States from the Middle East after September 11, it tied up all of INS’ resources and caused significant delays,” Mr. Cutler said. “When this country had problems trying to properly identify a few thousand people, how is it going to do the same with a few million?”

Mr. Frecker said, “A lot of those people are going to become grandparents before the government gets around to verifying their applications.”

The White House steadfastly has denied law-enforcement concerns that the program offers amnesty for illegal aliens, saying it was not an automatic path to citizenship.

But Mr. Frecker noted that it allowed those in the country illegally to remain with no criminal sanctions, adding that “a pig is a pig is a pig.” Mr. Cutler also said the plan excludes from prosecution those who already have violated the law by entering the country illegally.

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