Sunday, February 11, 2007

I emphatically disagree with statements Sen. Mel Martinez made recently to the Washington Times (“New RNC chief backs bill with guest-worker plan” Page 1, Feb. 2). Mr. Martinez wants to grant illegal aliens a “path to citizenship.” This represents nothing less than endorsement of a mass amnesty for many millions of illegal aliens. Americans reject mass amnesty by large margins. Amnesty is an affront to native-born Americans, to legal immigrants, and to the very concept of the rule of law.

Amnesty can be dressed up as “earned legalization,” “going to the back of the line” or a “path to citizenship,” but it is still amnesty. Do we give bank robbers “earned plunder” or make them “go to the end of the line” to get their pillage or a “path towards keeping their prize”? Consider two brothers living in Mexico City. One came to the United States illegally. The other stayed in Mexico and supports his family there. Mr. Martinez would grant the brother who broke our laws permanent residence and then citizenship in our country. He would grant no such prizes to the brother who stayed in Mexico. This is the worst kind of amnesty — it grants huge benefits that are reserved only for those who have broken our laws.

Amnesty will not, as advertised, increase national security; it will imperil us all. Some argue that if we grant amnesty we will at least know “who is in our country.” They are fundamentally mistaken. We will not learn who the illegal immigrants are, but who they want us to believe they are. Aliens who want to create false identities will provide counterfeit or fraudulent documents from their “home country” and we will catch only those unlucky few whose can’t afford quality fakes or who have fingerprints in the FBI system. There was a massive number of fraudulent applications filed for the 1986 amnesty. An estimated two-thirds of the applications for amnesty for agricultural workers were fraudulent and most of those fraudulent applications were approved.

As retired INS investigator Mike Cutler has testified before the Immigration, Border Security and Claims Subcommittee, “it will be a simple matter for illegal aliens, including terrorists or criminals, to walk into an immigration office, along with millions of other illegal aliens, and produce a false name and then get an official identity document from our government bureaucrats. These documents would then enable them to circumvent the various no-fly and terror watch lists. They would be able to use these documents as breeder documents — all the while staying under the radar and obscuring and concealing their true identity.”

Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was legalized under the 1986 amnesty. It was only after he got his amnesty that he was able to travel outside of the country, including severaltripstothe Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where he received the terrorist training he used in the bombing. Three-quarters of Americans have little or no confidence in the government’s ability to weed out terrorists and criminals from the millions who would apply for amnesty.

Mr. Martinez presents the false choice of mass amnesty or mass deportations. The sensible middle ground — supported by Americans over amnesty by more than two to one — is a policy of attrition. Vigorous enforcement of our current immigration laws will substantially decrease the illegal-immigrant population over time. Experience has proven that illegal immigrants who could no longer easily obtain jobs would simply return to their home countries. The Center for Immigration Studies has concluded that a policy of vigorous enforcement would cut the illegal immigrant population in half in just five years.

Mr. Martinez claims that House Republican opposition to amnesty has alienated Hispanic voters. There is no evidence to support Mr. Martinez’s position. According to the William C. Velasquez Institute’s exit polls, only eight percent of Latino voters picked immigration as the issue that mattered most to them in deciding how to vote for Congress last election. Would support for amnesty have helped Republicans? In the 1986 election, after a Republican president signed into law the largest amnesty for illegal immigrants in American history, only 23 percent of Hispanics voted for Republican candidates, far less than the 30 percent support rate in 2006.

The one segment of voters who Mr. Martinez and Sen. John McCain threaten to alienate is not Hispanics, but the Republicans’ law-and-order base. If they manage to do that, Democratic control of Congress won’t be just a two-year aberration, but something we will have to live with for many years. The most important principle for the survival of the United States of America would be destroyed — the rule of law.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, is ranking member of the immigration subcommittee.

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