Jewish World Review March 18, 2002 / 5 Nisan, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
Bush isn't worried about alienating loyalist voters
In the same week that the House passed a bill 275
to 137 to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the
country while they apply for legal residency,
the Immigration and Naturalization Service had to
cop to the ugly fact that six months after the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks, it sent out a letter authorizing
student visas for two of the dead hijackers.
President Bush was "plenty hot" about the student
visas, while he praised the House for passing the
immigration bill. After all, members were aiding his
effort to reach out to Latino voters.
Apparently -- and wrongly -- Bush isn't worried
about alienating those voters who don't believe that
immigration laws were made to be broken.
To be fair, the House bill is not the outrageous
blanket amnesty that some critics make it out to be.
The measure would allow people illegally in the
United States to remain here while they apply for
legal residency, not citizenship. They'd need a job
or family relationship to qualify for legal residency
and they would have to pay the INS a $1,000 fee.
Hey, people may come here illegally, then marry or
settle down and want to become legitimate. Why
not make it easier?
Two reasons. One: INS inefficiency. Or as Ira
Mehlman of the Federation for American
Immigration Reform asked, "Do we really want the
same agency that issued a visa to (a dead)
Mohamed Atta to be doing investigations and
background checks on 500,000 or so people,
about whom the only thing we know for certain is
that they violated our immigration laws?"
Two: Since the House bill would allow immigrants
to forgo an investigation in their home countries, it
could make it easier for those with criminal records
to win resident visas.
Already, according to a General Accounting Office
report released in January, immigration fraud is
"pervasive and significant and will increase." Worse:
Even the "INS does not know the extent of the
immigration benefit fraud problem." (Benefit here
means naturalization or an adjustment in status, as in
the posthumous Atta student visa notice.)
The other reason: "This sends out a signal that if you
come to the United States illegally, you eventually
will be rewarded," noted Mehlman.
The White House argues that Bush is working on
reforming the INS. During the 2000 campaign,
Bush proposed separating the INS into two entities,
one to welcome immigrants, the other to enforce
laws. INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar is
working on it. Spokesman Ken Lisaius noted that
the administration has ordered that an investigation
into the dead Atta letter be concluded within 30
That's not enough. Bush should not be pushing for
looser immigration rules when the INS is sending
out visa letters for dead terrorists. It's that simple.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., believes that if the
House knew about the INS visas for the dead
terrorists, the vote on the immigration bill may have
been different. Aide Lara Kennedy noted, "This
measure is going to be held up in the Senate."
Meanwhile, the White House has to recognize how
immigration policies benefited the 19 hijackers.
"There has been a firm resistance on the part of the
administration to learn any immigration lessons from
9/11," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for
Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. "It's not a
good sign. In this war, the home front is not a figure
In 1996, the Clinton White House put Veep Al
Gore in charge of Citizenship USA, a drive to
speed up naturalization for what savvy operatives
saw as a great way to create instant Democratic
voters among more than a million new citizens.
Haste meant mistakes. Some 180,000 people
became citizens before the FBI could do
background checks; it turned out that 11,000 of
them had felony records.
Critics on the right were outraged that the Dems
would jeopardize public safety to win votes. If Bush
thinks that those same people won't be angry if he
turns a blind eye to immigration abuses in his quest
to woo more Latino votes, he is in for a rude
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate