Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pat Buchanan says illegal immigration from poor and developing countries will overwhelm the United States and other Western countries in the next 50 years unless something is done.

“We’ve already won the battle with the public,” Mr. Buchanan tells The Washington Times. “The question is, when will the government respond?”

In his new book “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America,” the former presidential candidate and White House speechwriter examines immigration-related social problems and documents high levels of support among Hispanics for the so-called “Reconquista” of the U.S. Southwest.

Several authors have addressed the immigration issue in recent years, but Mr. Buchanan’s book — ranked No. 2 at Amazon.com yesterday — proposes measures to address the “emergency” that are more far-reaching than any legislation advocated by conservatives in Congress.

His plan includes deporting illegal aliens with criminal backgrounds, a 10-year limit on legal immigration set between 150,000 and 200,000 persons per year, and a $10 billion, 2,000-mile security fence along the border of the United States and Mexico.

With an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States, which now has about 34 million foreign-born residents, polls indicate most Americans share Mr. Buchanan’s concerns. A 2003 survey found that 58 percent would prefer total annual immigration be reduced to below 300,000, a two-thirds reduction from current levels of 1 million per year.

Yet critics say a “get tough” approach is impractical.

“Even if Mr. Buchanan’s proposals were put into place, we’d still have rising levels of immigration,” says Daniel T. Griswold, a scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Frustration with the issue is rising. Congress has utterly failed to deal with the issue. But that doesn’t necessarily point to Pat Buchanan’s prescription.”

Since 2000, more than 400,000 illegal aliens a year have entered the United States, the Department of Homeland Security recently estimated. Most of the illegals came from Mexico, DHS reported.

In his book, Mr. Buchanan says high levels of immigration threaten the future of American culture.

“As Rome passed away, so the West is passing away, from the same causes and in much the same way,” Mr. Buchanan writes. “What the Danube and Rhine were to Rome, the Rio Grande and Mediterranean are to America and Europe, the frontiers of a civilization no longer defended.”

Mr. Buchanan has long been seen as a polarizing figure in American politics — he was castigated by some in the Republican Party for his 1992 Republican National Convention address, in which he spoke of a “cultural war … for the soul of America.” Many of Mr. Buchanan’s critics view his immigration rhetoric as counterproductive.

“I don’t know what kind of America he envisions, but I think that immigrants are strengthening America,” said Mr. Griswold, director of Cato’s Center for Trade Policy Studies.

But Mr. Buchanan says the immigration debate has shifted toward his position.

“In 1992, I was down in California calling for only 70 miles of border fencing,” Mr. Buchanan said. “And I was called a lot of bad things. If I’m insensitive, then so are the 70 percent of Americans who agree with me on this issue.”

Politically, neither Republicans nor Democrats have been able to gain an upper hand on the immigration issue, with a recent Newsweek poll showing 39 percent of Americans trust Democrats more to handle immigration, while 37 percent chose Republicans.

Mr. Buchanan has harsh words for Republicans in Congress. He denounces as “de facto amnesty” the Senate-passed bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. However, Mr. Buchanan adds that when he started writing his book, “I didn’t know the House would push for such a strong bill,” speaking of the enforcement-only measure passed by the House in December.

“Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America,” Mr. Buchanan says when asked why elected officials do not support more stringent restrictions on immigration. “Until they get it right, they should be defeated at the ballot box.”

In his book, however, Mr. Buchanan saves his strongest criticism for President Bush, writing: “Concerned about his legacy, George W. Bush may yet live to see his name entered into the history of his country as the president who lost the American Southwest that James K. Polk won for the United States.”

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