Jewish World Review March 7, 2005/ 26 Adar I, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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With Democrats on the high ground

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When everyone south of the Rio Grande has a green card we won't need the Border Patrol. But that's an odd way to quell the hell on the border.

Runaway illegal immigration is the sleeper issue of this year, and years to come, but the Bush administration seems oddly out to a late lunch. The Democrats have seized what most Americans consider the high ground in an argument that is clearly not going away.

Senate Democrats only this week accused President Bush of reneging on a promise to hire 2,000 additional Border Patrol agents in return for their votes for the Homeland Security Department's mammoth $41 billion budget.

When he signed the legislation Dec. 6, George W. wrote a letter of thanks to Congress, calling the legislation authorizing the hiring of 2,000 additional agents in each of the next five years "an important step in strengthening our immigration laws by increasing the number of Border Patrol agents."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, one of the noisiest Democrats, observed that the legislation further authorized the hiring of 800 additional immigration and customs agents, and construction of facilities to house 8,000 additional illegal aliens.

"Yet," he told the Senate, "when the president submitted his budget request two months after sending that letter, virtually no funds were requested for any of these activities. At the same time, the president's own terrorism experts are extremely concerned about the threat terrorists pose to our borders."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont cited the agreement to add 200 new Border Patrol agents on the Canadian border. Not every illegal alien is named Jose. In fact, much of the concern is not aimed at Mexicans and other Latinos fleeing poverty, but at porous borders that invite terrorists.

George W. brings the stubborn determination that bids to remake the map of the Middle East to the subject of illegal immigration. His proposed amnesty for illegals already here — carefully and stubbornly not called an amnesty — was dead on arrival when he presented it nearly a year ago. But, like Count Dracula, amnesty won't stay dead.

Robert C. Bonner, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection who oversees the Border Patrol, answers manfully when someone asks whether 200 agents will be enough to satisfy the critics, including the September 11 commission that found official dereliction in stopping the al Qaeda terrorists who slipped into "the homeland" to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Yes," he says, "given the right combination of agents and technology, if we work smarter and do a better job." (That's if the 200 agents include Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Superman, and both Batman and Robin.)

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This Democratic challenge follows protests last month by Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who dispatched a letter co-signed by five Republicans who led the way in obtaining passage of the intelligence bill.

There's nothing churlish, selfish, greedy or inhospitable about Americans, many of them fast friends of the president, demanding that the nation protect its borders and regulate immigration, though this is the charge frequently laid at the feet of those who fear the flood from the south. Neither is it fair to accuse the president of offering amnesty and lightly defended borders only as payback to campaign contributors seeking a steady, ample supply of cheap and easily abused labor from the south.

Nevertheless, a lot of good people are confused. Only this week the American Enterprise Institute invited a thousand guests, most of whom looked like Republicans, to dine on rare tenderloin of beef after listening to a lecture by Mario Vargas Llosa, the celebrated Peruvian novelist and sometime presidential candidate.

"We dream, as novelists tend to do," he said to a standing ovation, "of a world stripped of fanatics, terrorists and dictators, a world of different cultures, races, creeds and traditions, coexisting in peace thanks to the culture of freedom, in which borders have become bridges that men and women can cross in pursuit of their goals with no other obstacle than their supreme free will."

This was enough to chill the wine (a Quivera Vineyards cabernet). With no borders, who needs a Border Patrol? security.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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