Unless House Republicans come to their senses and stop a politically miscalculated rush to judgment on immigration reform, Dec. 15 may end up being a bittersweet date in our history. It will be remembered as the day Iraq moved to proclaim its sovereignty through legislative elections at the same moment America began surrendering its own.
House leaders have scheduled a fateful vote for tomorrow that will render America's borders and immigration laws -- thus its sovereignty -- meaningless. The vote will set our nation on an almost irreversible course toward the enactment of a guest-worker amnesty plan that will legitimize the invasion of the more than 10 million illegal aliens already here and open our borders to unknown millions more.
The scheme is a classic bait-and-switch. First, pass a supposed "get-tough" enforcement bill in the House on Dec. 15 so members can head home feeling they've "done something" about illegal immigration. Second, let the Senate add a guest-worker amnesty plan to the bill in conference early next year. Finally, bring this completely different and deeply flawed bill back to the House for final passage.
The only way to derail this scheme is to postpone House action this year and return in 2006 to engage in the complete, thoughtful, public deliberation that a subject of such extraordinary consequences to our nation's future deserves. Acting alone if I must, but preferably in concert with House Republicans and Democrats justifiably outraged and alarmed by the high-handed legislative manipulation that is going on, every legislative tool available to us must be employed to stop this runaway process in its tracks tomorrow.
Overwhelmingly, the Americans who sent us here to represent them recognize that more of the same is not the way to fix our broken immigration system. What is needed is an honest, comprehensive effort to strengthen and enforce our laws against illegal entry into this country. Since the amnesty of 1986, we have had 19 years of practically no enforcement with predictable results: more crime; hospital closings; less diversity; a greater threat of terrorism; lower wages for American workers; and an erosion of the rule of law.
It is inescapable to all but the current generation of open-borders advocates that amnesty and appeasement of illegal immigration result in more illegal behavior. It energizes another wave of the immigration invasion by sending the wrong message. Indeed, when the president announced his intention to pursue a guest-worker plan in January 2004, it set off an illegal stampede across our border that has not let up.
Who can blame millions of unskilled and poverty-stricken Mexicans and others who come here? They rightly see the present-day guest-worker proposals as an invitation to cross our border illegally, hunker down in the underground economy and wait until the United States gives them the same legitimate status as generations of previous illegal invaders who traveled the same path.
Perhaps most distressing is the message from Republican leaders, like RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, that we need to pass a guest-worker plan because "it's good politics." It is never good politics to do the wrong thing for your country, and a guest-worker program is wrong for America. It is based on the same defeatist notion -- we can't stop it so we might as well legalize it -- used by proponents of legalizing drugs and prostitution. Legalization hasn't worked for those vices, and it won't work for illegal immigration either.
If we allow a guest-worker program to pass, it will be 1986 all over again -- amnesty first, enforcement never, and an unending wave of illegal immigration. Strict enforcement is the only way to stop illegal immigration. Sadly, that won't happen until the White House and congressional leaders stop seeing illegal immigration as a political problem to be finessed rather than an invasion to be stopped.
In Iraq, we understand that the borders with Syria and Iran must be closed and new waves of Islamofascists must be prevented from reinforcing the insurgency if democracy is to thrive. Here in America, and particularly in the House on Dec. 15, we should also recognize the imperative of protecting America's borders and her sovereignty.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, is the author of the Enforcement First Immigration Reform Act.