- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

Hundreds of “Minuteman” volunteers are fanning out this week across the Arizona-Mexico border. They hope, by so doing, to help the authorities reduce somewhat the human tsunami of illegal aliens crossing into America.

More important, perhaps, they seek to focus the our leaders’ attention on the public’s rising anger about this invasion of our territory — and its huge national security, social, economic and other costs.

The full extent of those costs may yet to be tallied. By some estimates, there were 75,000 “other-than-Mexican” illegals among those who sneaked into the United States last year. A growing number are from the Middle East and may well be Islamists using well-established alien-smuggling routes as the first step to perpetrating new acts of terror in this country.

Lest there be any lingering doubt, however, that politicians need the sort of pointed reminder the Minutemen are offering that, as they say in the movies, the American people are “mad as hell and not going to take it any more,” consider the likely scenario on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week.

The scheduled business is urgent action on an emergency supplemental appropriations measure to provide funding needed now by our troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without such funding, critical war materiel will begin running short — jeopardizing the mission, and possibly the lives, of our servicemen and women on the front lines.

This priority legislation became the vehicle the House of Representatives used last month to fulfill a promise made in December by its leadership and by President Bush: In exchange for passing last year a bill intended to carry out the recommendations of the September 11 Commission, but that failed to address several of the most important ones — in particular, those dealing with the need to enhance the authenticity and security of driver’s licenses, the “REAL ID” bill fixing the latter would be given expedited consideration.

The REAL ID legislation is aimed at denying future terrorists the ability exploited by the September 11, 2001, hijackers (even those in this country illegally) — namely, to hold numerous valid driver’s licenses, which they used to gain murderous access to airports and their targeted aircraft. It is no small irony, therefore, that the presence of the REAL ID provisions on the military’s supplemental funding bill is being cited by the Senate parliamentarian as grounds for Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho Republican, to try to attach to it legislation that would help eviscerate what passes for restrictions on illegal immigration.

Mr. Craig, an otherwise very sensible and responsible Republican legislator from Idaho, has an idee fixe he shares with, his co-sponsor, Sen. Teddy Kennedy: The agricultural sector of the U.S. economy needs cheap labor. So, let’s legalize the presence in this country of anyone who can claim to have once worked for a little more than three months in that sector.

If that were not bad enough, their families would be allowed to become legal residents, too, even if they are not now in the United States. The same would apply for illegals who had ostensibly been agricultural workers here in the past, but who have gone home. They can all become “temporarily” legit, a status the notoriously left-wing, yet federally funded, Legal Services Corp. will be happy to help them subsequently adjust to permanent resident status.

In short, S.359, the Craig-Kennedy Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2005 (better known as the AgJobs bill), amounts to an amnesty for a class of illegal aliens. While the proponents insist it is something else — for example, “hard-earned legalization” — there is no getting around the fact it hugely rewards people for coming to this country illegally. And, as we have seen with previous, misbegotten immigration amnesties, the effect is to encourage more people to do so.

That will surely be the case with the Craig-Kennedy AgJobs bill, too. Though it requires the illegal alien’s 100 days of agricultural work in the U.S. to have occurred during any 12-month period between February 2002 and August 2003 — and, therefore, is not something new “invaders” could cash in on — this legislation further reinforces the expectation that, if you can get into this country by whatever means, you will at some point likely be allowed to stay legally.

Interestingly, Messrs. Craig and Kennedy have significantly fewer co-sponsors (43) on their legislation this year than in the last session of Congress (62). At this writing, it is unclear if many of those senators who no longer want to be publicly associated with this amnesty bill will nonetheless vote for it.

We can only hope they have heard the Minutemen’s message on behalf of the vast majority of Americans of just about every walk of life and political persuasion:

The time has come to take effective action to secure our borders against the swelling tide of people trying to get into this country illegally; to find ways to decrease, not increase, those already here unlawfully; and to ensure that documents needed to access airports, government buildings, bank accounts, etc. are valid and held only by those entitled to carry them. And get all this done now, without hurting our troops.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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