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Jewish World Review Jan. 23 , 2002/10 Shevat, 5762

Don Feder

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On immigration, GOP is DUH -- A STORY in the Jan. 10 Los Angeles Times ("Wave of U.S. immigration likely to survive Sept. 11") observes: "The most significant development in the national immigrant debate is what hasn't happened: No lawmaker of influence has moved to reverse the country's generous immigration policy, which for more than three decades has facilitated the largest sustained wave of immigration in U.S. history."

That policy is getting even more generous. And Republicans, of all people, are now playing Jolly Old St. Nick to huddled masses (legal and illegal), despite mounting evidence that immigration is poison for the party.

In the 2000 election, Al Gore carried five of the seven states with the largest numbers of foreign born. He lost the sixth, Florida, by a hair, due to the anomaly of the Cuban-American vote. Bush took all 10 of the states with the lowest immigrant populations.

Their senses dulled by a multicultural binge, Republicans can't connect the dots. Because the GOP is still minimally identified with American values, it cannot successfully compete for the affection of immigrant voters, who are more interested in handouts than tax cuts.

But, heedless of this reality, in his 2003 budget (to be submitted to Congress in February) Bush reportedly will call for restoring food stamps to 363,000 legal immigrants -- a benefit non-citizens lost in the 1996 welfare reform.

It's estimated the change will cost $2.1 billion over the next decade. But then, food-stamp use expands in a recession. Plus, more benefits will encourage more immigration. So the price tag is open-ended.

Do we really want to encourage immigrants to come here and go on the dole? Whatever happened to the concept of not giving visas to those who might become a public charge?

Because they are poorer and less educated, the foreign-born are already above-average consumers of government services. Currently, 21 percent of immigrant households use at least one major welfare program, compared to 15 percent of native-born families.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with his Mexican counterpart to see about getting another amnesty for illegal aliens (excuse me, "undocumented workers") back on track. Prior to Sept. 11, Bush was pushing for legal status for 3.5 million of these lawbreakers.

Illegal immigrants are already coming at an annual rate of half a million. Just as the 1986 amnesty (which "adjusted the status" of 2.7 million) helped generate the following waves of illegals, another amnesty would add fuel to the fire that rages on our borders.

More than any other factor, immigration is transforming America.

Between 1990 and 2000, while the nation grew by 13 percent, our foreign-born population increased over 50 percent. Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that immigrants and their children born here accounted for two-thirds of all population growth in the 1990s.

Unlike immigrants of the past, all too often the new immigrants aren't assimilating. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., says: "There are too many coming in too quickly. And with multiculturalism and bilingualism in the schools, it's not a melting-pot mentality. It's a Bosnia mentality."

Still, Bush and his political strategist Karl Rove continue to pursue the illusive Hispanic vote, mesmerized by the fact that the president took 35 percent of that vote in 2000, compared to the 21 percent Dole got in 1996. They forget that Reagan received an even higher percentage in both of his campaigns, without pandering.

Whil losing two-thirds of Hispanics, the president won just 54 percent of the non-minority vote. He won't expand that base with food stamps for legal immigrants and amnesties for illegals.

The Times story quotes Doris Meissner, Clinton's commissioner of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, who cliams current immigration policy "reflects a sort of wise and grown-up attitude on the part of Americans."

Besides reflecting liberal condescension, Meissner's evaluation is dead wrong. Americans never voted for a generous immigration policy. In poll after poll, the public demands stringent controls. But due to the Republican default, voters have no choice here. On immigration, the GOP is duh.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate