- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

When it comes to immigration, the administration is laboring to come up with a coherent formula to protect the nation’s borders. Judging from recent actions and statements by Department of Homeland Security’s Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, the administration hopes to solve the problem by putting out the welcome mat for millions of illegal immigrants. They ought to go back to the drawing board because this proposal is not in our national interest and will never be passed by a Republican Congress.

According to Mr. Hutchinson, President Bush plans to put forward a plan to give aliens access to travel, so they know they can “go and return freely” to their country of origin “without fear of being denied re-entry” to the United States. Mr. Hutchinson adds that the United States needs to give illegal immigrants access to bilateral agreements allowing them to receive Social Security benefits in their home countries and to allow illegals to create tax-deferred savings accounts that could be withdrawn upon their return to those countries.

Current law says that an alien who has lived illegally in the United States for longer than 180 days must return home and wait three years before applying for legal visitor or immigrant status; if he has been here illegally for more than one year, he needs to wait a decade before re-applying. Since many of the illegal aliens who would participate in the Bush plan would have exceeded the three- and 10-year bars, Mr. Hutchinson wants legislation that would weaken these restrictions. His statements came in response to questions from Sen. Edward Kennedy, who suggested that the Mr. Bush’s plan was not generous enough in permitting illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

Compounding the situation is the administration’s cave-in to political pressure from open-borders advocates in California, who object to the fact that the Border Patrol enforcers have been too vigorous.

In June, a new 12-officer Mobile Patrol Group under the auspices of the Border Patrol arrested more than 450 illegals in a series of raids in Southern California. Latino advocates and 25 California Democratic members of Congress, led by Rep. Joe Baca and including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, complained to Mr. Hutchinson. Fifty-three House members, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay, signed a letter to Mr. Hutchinson supporting the stepped-up enforcement. So, what did Mr. Hutchinson do? He sided with Mrs. Pelosi and the open-borders crowd. Mr. Hutchinson declared that future operations conducted away from the border must be approved by department higher-up. The National Border Patrol Council representatives in the San Diego area said last month that the the Mobile Patrol Group had been disbanded.

To be certain, John Kerry’s approach would be even worse. But that doesn’t get the Bush administration off the hook for tilting toward the Kennedy-Pelosi crowd on a critical issue like safeguarding our borders. The administration is courting a platform fight — and further political trouble down the road with the Republican Party’s conservative base — with its ill-considered approach on immigration.

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