Jewish World Review Jan. 13, 2003/ 19 Teves, 5763
llIegals the political 'untouchables'
Well, they're pretty much everyone in the two major parties, plus the entire U.S. media.
So why don't they think as the masses do? In the media and the Democratic Party, everyone seems to subscribe to the wisdom of Carol Moseley Braun's mom. As Ambassador Braun told her audience in the ABC debate, the NPR debate, the Rainbow/PUSH debate, the UCLA environmental debate, the AFCSME debate, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus debate, the Congressional Black Caucus debate, the Service Employees International Union debate, etc:
''My late mother used to say it doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island or across the Rio Grande, we're all in the same boat now.''
It goes down so well that Gov. Howard Dean's started using it, too. And why not? It's beautifully coded imagery: Whether you came here as slave owner or slave, standing in line and filling in the paperwork or through the express check-in, everyone's an immigrant, and all the rest is fine print. Who are we to distinguish between some uptight white-bread Pilgrim disembarking at Plymouth Rock and an Algerian terrorist with a forged Quebec driver's license making a break for it at the British Columbia/Washington state border en route to blow up LAX? Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Illegal Americans, Islamist Americans, Incendiary Americans, we're all in the same boat, whether we're rowing or planting the plastic explosives.
Like so much Media-Democrat conventional wisdom, its uselessness or harmfulness as practically applied is less important than the fact that it advertises your niceness. So, for Democratic presidential candidates, being a moral poseur is the default position on immigration. After all, to be concerned about immigration is, as they see it, to be a racist.
So, as on so many issues, the Democratic Party has nothing helpful to contribute. That leaves the Republican Party. I would imagine that, when a WASPy old Mayflower madam like Dean recycles Carol's mom's paean to Ellis Island and the Rio Grande, a lot of Republicans roll their eyes, if only metaphorically. Yet there was the president the other day using much the same nostalgic imagery in service of a massive amnesty dressed up as a decade-or-two ''temporary worker'' application process.
If you're one of that 83 percent of Americans who want illegal immigrants deported, you're probably wondering why it's easier for those who break U.S. immigration law to get a job at the White House (true: an illegal immigrant worked as a Clinton/Bush gardener) than for anybody who wants to enforce U.S. immigration law to get a job at the White House. And I guess the answer is this: There are supposedly up to 10 million illegals living and working in America. It's not politically possible for a civilized nation forcibly to deport a population three times as big as Ireland's.
So which of the remaining options is the least worst? To leave a population 20 times bigger than that of Dean's Vermont living in the shadows, knowing that those shadows provide cover for all sorts of murky activities from fake IDs for terrorists to election fraud. Or to shrug ''They're here, they're clear, get used to it,'' and ensnare them, like lawful citizens, within the coils of the bureaucracy.
The president has opted for the latter option. A pragmatic conservative could support that, but only if the move was accompanied by a determination to address the ''root cause'': the inertia and incompetence of America's immigration bureaucracy. But there's no indication in the president's remarks that he's prepared to get serious about that. America takes in roughly a million legal immigrants and half-a-million illegals each year. Even routine visa and green card application take years to process: two, five, 10 years. Not because the feds are spending two, five or 10 years doing unusually thorough background checks, but just because that's how long it takes to shuffle the paperwork. Imagine a branch of ''60-Minute Photo'' that takes 60 minutes to develop the photos but three months to move them from the front counter to the lab at the back and another eight months to move them from the lab back to the counter. Right now, the system has a backlog just shy of 5 million. Drop another few million from the Undocumented American community in their laps, and lawful immigrants can add another half-decade and a couple more circles of hell to their own applications.
Remember the 1986 immigration amnesty? One of its beneficiaries was Mahmoud abu Halima, who went on to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993. His friend Mohammad Salameh wasn't so fortunate. He applied for the '86 amnesty but was rejected. So he just stayed on in America, living illegally, and happily was still around to help Mahmoud and co-attack the Twin Towers. He's the guy who rented the truck, which suggests he had enough ID to get past the rental agent at Ryder.
But I don't want to tar illegal immigrants with the terrorist brush. After all, in their second and much more successful assault on the World Trade Center, most of the killers were approved by the State Department, ushered in through Foggy Bottom's ''visa express'' program for Saudis, even though their answers on the application form were almost comically inadequate (''Address while in the United States: HOTEL, AMERICA'') and they're exactly the category young single men with no job and no motive to return that's supposed to be a red flag for immigration fraud.
So that's a triple failure. Whether the terrorist (a) does the proper paperwork upfront, (b) applies for a retrospective amnesty, (c) gets rejected and ordered to be deported, or (bonus category d) gets arrested for immigration violations and then released (like Sniper Boy John Lee Malvo), it makes no difference: Whichever menu option he selects, the federal government will let him carry on living here until he's decided which Americans he wants to kill.
The world's most powerful nation has an illegal immigration problem because it has a legal immigration problem. Transferring millions of people from the unofficial shadow network to the arthritic bureaucracy that allowed the problem to get this big is unlikely to solve it.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
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