- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

Given the potential security problems posed by hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens among whom are any number of potential ne'er-do-wells who may have slipped unnoticed into the United States prior to September 11 it's a dangerous idea to grant them blanket amnesty and simply hope for the best. Yet that is precisely what the Bush administration and its backers in Congress are hoping to do, and for no better reason, apparently, than opportunism.
President Bush, as part of his efforts to broaden his electoral base by appealing to Hispanic voters, has pushed for just such an amnesty, which is contained in the border-security legislation currently being considered by Congress. If approved by the Senate, the legislation, which has already passed the House by a 275-137 margin, would permit untold numbers of individuals who are in the country illegally to remain. They would be able to submit fresh applications for permanent residency and avoid being deported to their countries of origin to make their applications. Mexico stands to benefit the most from the amnesty proposal, but the plan effectively throws a protective blanket over illegal immigrants from all parts of the globe, including countries that may harbor al Qaeda terrorist cells.
Fortunately, one senator's objections could prevent this from coming to fruition. West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd vows to delay passage of the broader border-security legislation until the provision relating to amnesty is either dropped or modified. Said he: "It is lunacy sheer lunacy that the president would request, and the House would pass, such an amnesty at this time. That point seems obvious to the American people, if not to the administration."
Under the rules governing passage of the border-security bill, one dissenting vote can delay the process, a fact for which we should all be grateful. As Mr. Byrd has correctly observed, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has already demonstrated remarkable ineptitude in its handling of paperwork relating to illegal immigrants. Adding to this caseload, as would happen if the amnesty were approved, would almost certainly overwhelm what is already an overextended, less-than-competent outfit. After September 11, this cannot be tolerated.
Just last week, it was learned that the INS had given the green light to September 11 hijacking leader Mohammed Atta and another terrorist, six months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, to attend flight school in Florida. "If the American people went to bed last Tuesday night in dismay over the latest INS debacle, they must have been absolutely dumfounded when they awoke Wednesday morning to learn that the House of Representatives had passed, at the request of the president, what amounts to an amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, many of whom have not undergone any background or security check," Mr. Byrd said.
We agree. Mr. Byrd may be the king of pork and this newspaper has not often agreed with his public-policy initiatives but even the blind porker occasionally finds an acorn. Mr. Byrd is right on this one, and Mr. Bush should weigh the electoral advantages of appealing to Hispanic voters against the security considerations that make his blanket amnesty proposal a risky proposition indeed.



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