- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006


The “debate” over illegal immigration has become a contest to see who can hurl the most emotional taunts. This is the “civil” debate George W. Bush asked for.

The illegal-immigration lobby has cast the argument as between the friends of the working poor, the sick, the halt, the lame and cherubic little children on one side, with Tiny Tim lifting his little voice (in Spanish, of course) with the invocation that “God bless us every one,” and on the other side, Scrooge and his crabby malcontents, eager to consign the poor, sick, halt, etc., back to the hell whence they came.

The U.S. Senate’s Amnesty Caucus, the sob-sister chorus, is winning this match. Whether they can preserve the chaos on the border is something else.

Their guest-worker bill, designed by Rube Goldberg & Associates, is a “solution” not intended to actually solve very much, but to preserve abuses valuable to that small corporate sliver of the gringo majority. This legislation provides a “path to citizenship” only via a convoluted formula requiring the 10 million or 12 million illegal aliens — nobody actually knows how many because it’s not nice to ask — to learn English, show “good character,” study American history (maybe even write a term paper about the Boston Tea Party) and pay a $2,000 fine.

It’s not clear how a poor illegal, who typically works at pickup jobs at a wage as close to the legal minimum as big-hearted Corporate Republican employers can get away with, will be able to scratch up the $2,000. Since such an illegal is illegal already, why should he turn himself in just to avoid being illegal? He knows that a government that enacts laws with a wink to the cops and a nudge to the courts won’t ever send him home. These hard-working folk are illegal, but not dumb.

Here in Southern California, which is Ground Zero to the “debate,” there’s not so much outrage as bemusement. The illegals and their manipulators in the Hispanic community have got the Senate’s number. There’s no squeamishness about calling amnesty by its rightful name. One of the most popular placards the marchers carry into the streets proclaims, “No amnesty, no peace.” George W. Bush may imagine the illegals as “living in the shadows,” as he tearfully put it last week, but the hundreds of thousands who marched through downtown Los Angeles took a particular delight in marching in the bright sunshine. They know that nobody will send them home, and they’re confident, as they should be, that the Amnesty of ‘06, which follows the Amnesty of ‘86, will keep the border as open as a sieve.

The Hispanics are pleased, as they have a right to be, that they have leveraged a little to stampede the easily stampeded U.S. Senate. Though Hispanics comprise 34.7 percent of the California population, they’re only 6.8 percent of the registered voters (source: New York Times). When the Republicans who joined the stampede measure that against the gringos who are likely to take it out on Republicans in November, it’s not a very smart trade-off.

Some of our senators argue that they’re only considering the moral and ethical implications of the immigration debate. (No laughter here, please.) This is George W.’s argument, and however wrongheaded, his sincerity credentials are more believable. He has had an emotional investment in the argument since his “young and foolish” days, when the bars and bordellos on the border were only a four-hour drive from Midland. He often lapses into border Spanish on the stump, and once appeared in a campaign video waving the Mexican flag. His reluctance to press President Vicente Fox to open the Mexican economy to foreign investment and free markets in return for keeping the border porous is less easily understood. Remittances from illegals constitute $20 billion annually, 3 percent of the Mexican economy, and surpasses the income from both tourism and oil. Exporting Mexicans to the United States is crucial to keeping the Mexican economy going.

But nothing about the immigration “debate” is on the square. To halt illegal immigration, we must legalize it. To enforce the law, we should encourage breaking the law. The Vietnam analogy is not to Iraq, but to Mexico: “To save the village, we must destroy it.”

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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