- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The immigration bill before Congress has some of the most serious consequences for the future of this country. Yet it is not being discussed seriously by most politicians or most of the media. Instead, it is being discussed in a series of glib talking points that insult our intelligence.

Some of the most momentous consequences — a major increase in immigrants admitted legally — are not even discussed at all by those who wrote the Senate bill, though Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, has uncovered those provisions in the bill and brought them out into the light of day.

How many times have we heard illegal aliens are taking “jobs that Americans won’t do”? Just what specifically are those jobs? Even in occupations where illegals are concentrated, such as agriculture, cleaning, construction, and food preparation, the great majority of the work is still done by people who are not illegal aliens.

The highest concentration of illegals is in agriculture, where they are 24 percent of the people employed. That means three-quarters of the workers are not illegal aliens. But when will the glib phrase-mongers stop telling us the illegals are simply taking “jobs that Americans won’t do”?

Another insult to our intelligence is that amnesty is not amnesty if you call it something else. Requiring illegals to fulfill certain requirements to become U.S. citizens is supposed to mean this is not amnesty. But let’s do what the spinmeisters hope we never will — stop and think. Amnesty is overlooking (“forgetting,” as in amnesia) the law violation by those who crossed our borders illegally.

The fact there are requirements for getting American citizenship is a separate issue entirely. Illegal aliens who do not choose to seek American citizenship are under no more jeopardy than before. They have de facto amnesty.

Yet another insult to our intelligence is saying that, since we cannot find and deport 12 million people, the only choice left is to find some way to make them legal.

There is probably no category of lawbreakers — from counterfeiters to burglars or from jaywalkers to murderers — who can all be found and arrested. But no one suggests we must therefore make what they have done legal.

Such an argument would suggest there is nothing between 100 percent effective law enforcement and zero percent effective law enforcement.

The reverse twist on this argument is that suddenly taking 12 million people out of the labor force would disrupt the economy. No one has ever said — or probably even dreamed — we could suddenly find all 12 million illegal immigrants at once and send them all home immediately. This is another strawman argument.

The real question is what we do with whatever illegal aliens we do find. Right now, there are various communities where local officials forbid the police from reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Why are people who are so gung-ho for punishing employers so utterly silent about punishing government officials who openly and deliberately violate federal laws? Employers, after all, are not in the business of law enforcement.

If some guy who runs a hardware store or a dry cleaning business hires someone who shows some forged documents, why should the employer be fined for being unable to tell the difference, when government officials who can tell the difference do nothing — or are even actively obstruct federal laws?

Putting unarmed national guardsmen on the border is another cosmetic move, a placebo instead of real medicine. The excuse is that it is not possible to train more than 1,500 border patrol agents a year. Meanwhile, we have trained well more than 200,000 Iraqi security forces while guerilla warfare raged around them.

You can put a million people on the border and it will mean nothing if those caught are simply turned loose and sent back to try again tomorrow — or perhaps later the same day.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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