Monday, November 27, 2006

The National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents says it could support a guest-worker program to let foreigners work in the U.S., if the program is limited, tightly controlled and available only to those aliens who have entered the country legally.

“We support a guest-worker program in principle, believing it can serve the national interest,” said Kent Lundgren, the association’s coordinator. “However, we also believe guest workers must be limited in what they may do, what they may benefit from under immigration law, and the program must be tightly controlled.

“No alien in any illegal status should be allowed to participate,” said Mr. Lundgren, a former Border Patrol assistant chief. “Application for the program must take place outside the United States, and the applicant must remain outside the country while the application is pending.”

Mr. Lundgren, in a telephone interview, called immigration reform “an issue that arises periodically in the national consciousness” but said Congress and the White House are attempting to pass reform efforts that have failed in the past.

His organization has circulated a position paper signed by 250 former Border Patrol senior executives, supervisors and field agents, saying that while prior efforts at reforming immigration law — including the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens — “may have changed immigration for this country, it neither reformed nor controlled it.

“It appears there is a move under way to saddle the nation once again with law containing the same flaws found in the 1986 act, but now on scale unimagined at that time,” he said. “We believe the result for the nation will be disastrous if anything is passed that resembles what has been under debate in the Senate.

“The nation has made demonstrable mistakes in the past in its efforts to control immigration,” he said. “Let us, who were there to see them, remind the nation of the outcome and make suggestions for change.”

President Bush pledged earlier this month to join with Democrats to pass an immigration bill with a guest-worker program his own party blocked this year. His Republican opponents say they cannot stop such a bill from passing.

The Senate passed a broad immigration bill that included a guest-worker program and citizenship rights for some of the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now in the United States. House Republicans blocked the bill, calling it an offer of amnesty. Instead, they forced through a bill to erect 698 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Several veteran law-enforcement authorities, including immigration agents and inspectors, have told The Washington Times that passage of a guest-worker or amnesty program will open the country to an even greater flood of illegal aliens than the 1986 law did.

That law, in addition to granting legal status to 2.7 million illegal aliens, paved the way for hundreds of thousands of their relatives to join them. Although the law contained increased enforcement and sanctions aimed at ending illegal immigration, the illegal alien population in the U.S. today has been estimated at more than quadruple the 1986 total.

In its position paper, the association said:

• Aliens now in the United States must be here with permission or they should leave or be removed. It said that can be achieved only by securing the borders and passing legislation establishing “meaningful processes” for the screening of those who wish to enter legally.

• It “absolutely opposes” any legislation giving legal status to those who entered the country illegally or who entered legally and remained in the country illegally.

• It supports “meaningful employer sanctions,” adding that current laws are adequate although their use “has been subverted to meaninglessness through political and legal pressure initiated by those who benefit from the presence of illegal aliens.”

• Congress and the White House need to direct the Homeland Security and Justice departments to aggressively enforce existing immigration laws.

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