- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

President Bush’s immigration address to the nation Monday night might have been more convincing had it come before political pressure from his conservative base made it appear his motives might be suspect.

In February 2005, the president signed into law a bill that was supposed to add 10,000 new border patrol agents along America’s border with Mexico. But the president’s 2006 budget funded only 210 new agents. Budget restraints were cited for the drastic cutback. Now he asks Congress for money to hire 9,000 to 12,000 new agents. He would also deploy National Guard troops to “back up” the border patrol.

Throughout his address, the president kept referring to the immigrants and their rights and desires. What about those of us born in America, or who legally immigrated? Don’t we have a right to preserve the nation the way it was handed down to us, with our English language, our culture and our loyalty to this country?

There is more to the immigration issue than the president revealed in his speech. The Senate Immigration Reform Bill, now under consideration by the Senate, runs to 614 pages. With a document that long, there is bound to be some hidden mischief. Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, says the bill would allow up to 193 million new legal immigrants in the next 20 years. Such a staggering number comprises 60 percent of the current U.S. population. Is our economy so strong and our national identity so weak we could absorb so many immigrants in so short a time, or at any time?

The rapid population growth would come not only from new immigrants but their family members. Since immigrant families are generally larger than ours (due not only to our decision to have fewer children, but also abortion, which has claimed the lives of more than 40 million unborn Americans in the last 30 years) their population would overwhelm what we have here now.

This isn’t about “fairness,” or being a “welcoming society.” If anything close to the current Senate bill passes, we will be a different nation. Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, says the Senate bill would make immigration to the United States an “entitlement.” Mr. Sessions told The Washington Times, “The decision as to who may come will almost totally be controlled by the desire of the individuals who wish to immigrate to the United States rather than the United States government.”

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 83-16 in favor of construction of a fence and 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the border. It was the first victory by conservatives who have been pushing for stronger border enforcement. Just before that vote, senators, by a 66-33 vote, rejected a proposal to remove from the bill the right of illegals in the country for more than two years to apply for citizenship, thus giving the president a victory for his “guest worker” proposal.

I prefer how the Swiss government handles immigration and citizenship to the virtual open-door policy advocated by the president and the Senate bill. The Swiss appreciate tourists and businesspeople, but if one wishes to become a Swiss citizen, the government makes it difficult. The Swiss want to preserve their culture. There is no “right” to be a Swiss citizen. Being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically make one Swiss. The government regulates the right of citizenship through descent.

People who wish to be naturalized in Switzerland must live at least 12 years in the country; submit to complete integration into Swiss life, which includes familiarity with Swiss habits, customs and traditions; comply with the Swiss rule of law; and demonstrate they are no danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security. Local towns may add other requirements.

President Bush employed the classic “melting pot” metaphor, but changing the character and culture of America through uncontrolled immigration — legal or not — would drop a glacier into the pot that would never melt.

This is about more than politics and votes. It goes to who and what we are. Current citizens better make sure this is not an invasion masquerading as immigration.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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