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May 15, 2006

Bush's Speech

National Guard troops?  Check

Increased enforcement?  Check.

Guest worker program?  Check.

Amnesty-by-any-other-name?  Check.

Huh.  Well that could've gone worse.  Only question: does the guest worker program have a citizenship component?  Only response: if it does, it ain't lasting two minutes on Congress.  So long as Frist rules the Senate and Hastert runs the House, nothing reasonable will move forward.  The President doesn't have all that much legislative power normally, but with poll numbers like these, he's got none.

Update: Representative Patrick McHenry (R-Tool) says:

A guest worker program is nothing more than amnesty wearing make-up —it's easier to look at, but just as ugly underneath. The simple truth is that is that if you break the law to come to this country, you will not respect it once you're here."

Similarly, when I break the speed limit en route to the bank, I'm a sure bet to stick the place up.

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But don't forget that little snippet Bush snuck in there. Did you hear it? Digital fingerprints! There it is! At least the administration is consistent. If they're trying to really live up to George Orwell's dystopian nightmare, they're holding up thei... [Read More]

Tracked on May 16, 2006 3:10:28 PM

Comments

Bush is only proposing to have a more secure Green card. He is not proposing anything that makes it harder for an immigrant to falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen (e.g. with forged birth certificates).

Posted by: Quiddity | May 15, 2006 9:07:25 PM

Re: McHenry

One could note that the illegal immigrants we're talking about have already broken the law, and are already in the U.S. Yet, I believe, crime statistics are historically low. That's a real puzzler.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 15, 2006 9:29:46 PM

I'm not sure how this helps Bush with his base. I suppose that Rove could be throwing some red meat for Congressional Repubs to gnaw on to show their independence of the sinking USS Bush, but I find it hard to believe that anyone in the White House gives a rat's ass about any elections but their own.

Maybe they're afraid of a Democratic Congress with subpoena power.

Posted by: Stephen | May 15, 2006 9:44:10 PM

Also, note that AEI just hired Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim woman in Holland who (I think) was threatened with death for criticizing Islam. She also apparently lied on her asylum application. She may well be an illegal alien, and therefore inclined to criminal behavior. Yet we welcome her into this country and give her a job at a right wing think tank.

What will we tell the children?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 15, 2006 9:53:42 PM

Patrick McHenry is a rising star in the GOP. The guy is so partisan, he'd stand on his own grandmother's face to kiss a GOP donor's ass if that's what the party demanded. He's a Grover Norquist in the making.

Posted by: Dustin | May 15, 2006 10:38:29 PM

Gotta love this concern for securing the border...5 years too late...that is, if you take the terrorist threat at face value from BushCo. (Or is it a timely economic move to reduce cheap labor pools and let wages rise to keep up with a scenario to inflate our way out of our burgeoning credit mess? Just speculating there...)

Posted by: Steve Mudge | May 15, 2006 11:07:28 PM

Ezra, I'm all for facing the immigration problem in an honest and authentic way. I don't really think marginalizing the foreign workers is the way to go--they do that in some European countries, and it has created a second-tier society, an underclass situation, if you will. The "guest workers" do not have the full complement of rights that nationals do. And there is much resentment and hatred festering away in those parts of town where they live.

Anyway, desperate people paying smugglers to sneak them into the States is no answer, either. We need to make citizenship available to those who want to be good citizens. This must start with an honest, across-the-board admittance--by all concerned businesses--that American business depends on immigrant labor in no small way.

As for those who come here illegally being more likely to commit further crimes, it's a bit disingenuous to compare it to speeding on your way to the bank and then not robbing said bank. We can still have sympathy for the plight of illegal immigrants and endeavor to do all in our power to change the laws currently in place so they may pursue legal citizenship, but as it stands right now, entering the United States illegally is a serious crime and if one is caught doing it, one faces detention and deportation. Falsifying official documents (i.e. lying about one's social security number) is a felony that can also lead to imprisonment and, again, deportation. Driving over the speed limit--depending, of course, on how much over the limti one drives and how often one has been caught doing so in the past--is a crime that, for most, will result in one's wallet being lightened by a few C-notes and, possibly, one's insurance card and one's license.

Two different sorts of crime altogether.

Finally--and there's no getting around this one--if we are still interested in keeping young pilot school students honest, we must address border security. The northern border as well as the one to the south along which some truly disconnected Republicans want to build a wall.

Posted by: litbrit | May 15, 2006 11:37:07 PM

Agreed with LitBrit across the board. Couldn't have said it better myself.

And no, that's not just blowing smoke. I literally could not have said it better.

Posted by: Off Colfax | May 16, 2006 12:08:58 AM

Accepting that speeding and forging documents are two crimes of different levels of seriousness, I actually think Ezra's comparison works. The point is that the first crime (speeding / forging documents) is not strongly correlated with a motivation to commit the second crime (robbing banks / whatever McHenry thinks immigrants are going to do). Usually when people speed, it's just because they want to go somewhere fast, and does not express a desire to rob banks. And when people forge documents to get jobs, it's just because they are very poor and need jobs, not because they are looking to commit crimes. There may be some connection between poverty and criminality, because poor people are desperate and don't have enough legal opportunities, but the solution to that is just to give the poor people more opportunities.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 16, 2006 2:34:04 AM

litbrit said: entering the United States illegally is a serious crime

Actually not a crime. Illegal entry is a civil offense today, not a criminal offense (therefore not a crime). It is not a misdemeanor, nor a felony. Violators on illegal entry can be deported, but they cannot be put in jail charged with a crime.

The real problem is that there are jobs here, and few there. There are jobs because businesses want cheap labor and create the demand that is met by immigrant supply.

Where was Bush's ringing call to increase enforcement of the laws on business hiring of illegals? Why have so few businesses been punished? Why did Bush decrease funding for enforcement of business violators?

Why did Bush eliminate nearly 10,000 positions in the border patrol this year that were authorized by Congress?

The answers, my friends are written in the wind: Bush wants to satisfy his corporate contributors on one hand and on the other hand the right wing nuts who are worried about racial polution by latins.

Bush's plan is all about cosmetics, not results. Until the demand from the businesses is controlled, immigrants will come here by land, by sea and by air.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 16, 2006 2:50:11 AM

Concur with litbrit here. Is it too much to consider immigrants to be on probation, and to expect that they will scrupulously obey the law as a demonstration of good character? Apparently so. This may not be criminality per se - bank robbery - but in entering illegally, obtaining forged documents, driving without proper documentation, etc., all because they are "very poor and need jobs", immigrants are hardly conducting themselves in a way that shows respect for the law. It also dishonors legal immigrants, who abide by the rules and wait their turn, however rationed. Are they 'suckers' for accepting our regulations?

Amnesty - in any form - will simply set the stage for the next wave, and the next. I'm afraid that's where we're headed: 350,000,000 people by about 2025 or so. Move over.

Posted by: cynic | May 16, 2006 5:01:04 AM

Neil the Ethical Werewolf, entering the US illegally is in fact strongly correlated with working in the US illegally (just as entering a bank illegally is strongly correlated with robbing a bank). And forging documents to obtain a job is a crime so people who forge documents are in fact looking to commit crimes.
Illegal immigrants are professional criminals, their entire income is illegally obtained.

Posted by: James B. Shearer | May 16, 2006 5:03:45 AM

I have no problem with professional criminals, provided that they don't harm anybody. If the government bans harmless or socially beneficial behavior, that doesn't make the behavior wrong. Law and morality are two different things. So I'm just not moved by any of these 'illegality' arguments.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 16, 2006 5:21:53 AM

I think the reactions here show how much of a mistake for Bush to wade into an issue he was planning to be half-assed about all along: immigration is not an issue that cuts left/right, and there isn't a cosmetic (to paraphrase McHenry's "amnesty in makeup", which was cute, at least) solution to this. Many people - even some otherwise liberal people - feel strongly that a flood of immigrants sneaking over the southern border is a major problem, and one without an obvious good solution.

My thinking on this - because I don't have a strong opinion and I think ultimately we will have to accept a compromise solution that makes it harder to get into the country, eases immigration rules, reforms the INS and gives citizenship to a large number of folks already here - is purely partisan. I think Bush has misunderestimated, for the last time, just how negative his base is on the "reforms" he proposes, and since he long ago gave away any chance to bring Dems to his side, this can only drive his numbers to levels so low it will be frankly stunning. When you define "amnesty" as "anything that will make even one of these illegal immigrants a citizen", you've pretty much closed off all your options before anyone speaks.

This sets up an election scenario so basic that Dems would really have to launch that en masse homosexual conversion scenario (along with the mass abortions) to lose. It's kind of fun seeing the most arrogant administration ever lurch from spectacular failure to spectacular failure; I honestly never thought they'd mess up this badly. The speech was a mistake... and if that was Tony Snow's first big (bad) idea, it's all downhill from here.

Posted by: weboy | May 16, 2006 6:23:41 AM

Similarly, when I break the speed limit en route to the bank, I'm a sure bet to stick the place up.

If you break the speed limit you are illegal. You should be deported. We need to stop coddling all these illegals. Deport the illegals! Deport the speeders!

Posted by: i dunno | May 16, 2006 6:48:22 AM

Jim PortlandOR said: Actually not a crime. Illegal entry is a civil offense today, not a criminal offense (therefore not a crime). It is not a misdemeanor, nor a felony. Violators on illegal entry can be deported, but they cannot be put in jail charged with a crime.

Actually, illegal entry is a crime. From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

"Crossing the border without a valid passport and U.S. visa is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for subsequent violations. Immigrants who are caught illegally trespassing U.S. territory are fingerprinted and immediately returned, unless they are a repeat offender, in which case they may be criminally prosecuted. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) made the hiring of an illegal alien an offense for the first time."

As for the law not addressing, and holding criminally liable, those employers who hire illegal immigrants, that is simply not true either. The language is certainly there (see below); it is the enforcement of the law that appears to be all but nonexistent, particularly for large corporations. I assure you, there is plenty of government scrutiny and enforcement of the law when it comes to small business, especially agricultural ones (my husband owns a farm and nursery here in Florida). The first time one submits payroll taxes after hiring a new employee, any discrepancy with his social security number and name/DOB will set off all kinds of bells and alarms, resulting in a letter from the Feds informing the employer to send said individual to the nearest Social Security office to straighten matters out. Here is the specific language of the law, as it appears on the website of the US Department of Labor:

"Employers determined to have failed to comply with the employment verification requirements may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 for each individual for whom such a violation occurred. Employers who knowingly hire unauthorized aliens may be subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for the first violation and up to $10,000 for subsequent violations."

The law is strictly enforced for small businesses, here in Florida anyway, with particular scrutiny applied to agricultural enterprises. Where I believe this whole thing falls apart is with regard to the many large corporations--construction, restaurant chains, hotels, etc.--who hire illegal immigrants in far larger numbers and seemingly without penalty, providing powerful incentive for desperate people to risk life, limb, and deportation to sneak into the States. Until that giant elephant in the room is acknowledged and wrested to the ground, there can be no meaningful discussions about "reform".

Posted by: litbrit | May 16, 2006 7:40:12 AM

NO POLITICIAN, LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE, is truly dedicated about fixing immigration. To secure hte borders requires a Herculean effort. I'd guess you need at least 10 foot soldiers/agents every mile or so, the border is about 3000 miles long, so thats 30,000 border agents right off the top. You need at least 30k troops REGARDLESS of whether you build a wall or not, and REGARDLESS of how much "technology" you have at your disposal.

No politician will devote those kinds of resources to the border.

As others have stated, you also have to crack down on businesses who hire illegals. You have to make it so risky/painful to hire them that it becomes unthinkable. A $500 fine wont cut it. You need fines upwards of 100k - 1 million PER INCIDENT to really make these companies think twice about who they hire.

Another component you need is verified worker status. Every time somebody starts a job, the employer should be required to check their SSN against a federal computer online database. If its a fradulent #, then the guy cant be hired. Right now there is zero checking of SSNs. With an online database, we would know when fake #s are used.

Here is what is going to happen. Congress will pass some half ass border "security" measure that temporarily increases border troops, but nowhere near enough to actually secure the border. Along with that, they'll put in the guest worker/citizenship/amnesty program. Ezra seems to think this wont happen, but if you pay attention at least half the republicans and ALL the democrats favor an amnesty program.

Once the amnesty program goes into effect, the number of people trying to enter illegally will skyrocket. After he public uproar over immigration calms down, thru attrition the # of border agents will slowly shrink and we'll be no better off than we are right now.

As for business enforcement, again its all bark and no bite. They'll publicly go after 1 or 2 big businesses and make examples of them, but after that, they will conveniently forget to enforce the business measures and hiring of illegals will continue unabated.

So in the end we will have virtually teh same system we have now, which is to say no system at all other than a guest worker program. Which means that in 20 years, we'll have to have ANOTHER amnesty program because we'll have another 30-40 million illegals who crossed the border hoping to take advantage of amnesty.

Posted by: joe blow | May 16, 2006 7:53:07 AM

As for those who come here illegally being more likely to commit further crimes, it's a bit disingenuous to compare it to speeding on your way to the bank and then not robbing said bank. We can still have sympathy for the plight of illegal immigrants and endeavor to do all in our power to change the laws currently in place so they may pursue legal citizenship, but as it stands right now, entering the United States illegally is a serious crime and if one is caught doing it, one faces detention and deportation. Falsifying official documents (i.e. lying about one's social security number) is a felony that can also lead to imprisonment and, again, deportation. Driving over the speed limit--depending, of course, on how much over the limti one drives and how often one has been caught doing so in the past--is a crime that, for most, will result in one's wallet being lightened by a few C-notes and, possibly, one's insurance card and one's license.

All of which means precisely nothing. Crossing illegally has only the meaning we choose to give to it; there is no obvious harm to it, as there is with activities universally agreed to be criminal like thievery or assault. Even speeding has more obvious harm - cars are dangerous. There is no inherent or obvious harm in crossing an arbitrary line in the dirt.

*mutters* Noone ever talks about the law's implicit sanctity when we're debating draconian drug possession laws.

Also, Florida is a bad example, given the amnesty deals received by Cuban immigrants.

Posted by: Sandals | May 16, 2006 8:00:38 AM

From WhereWolf?:
"I have no problem with professional criminals, provided that they don't harm anybody. If the government bans harmless or socially beneficial behavior, that doesn't make the behavior wrong. Law and morality are two different things. So I'm just not moved by any of these 'illegality' arguments."

Laws are rules that are promulgated in advance by duly elected officials via a democratic process. It's what we have agreed upon in advance. To cavalierly say that the law means nothing is an affront to our democratic way of life. You may wish to change them or you may articulate that you believe that they are unfair, but what Neil does is unforgivable and terribly selfish.

And what a fuckin' moron for him to say he has no problem with professional criminals. I understand controversy, but why Ezra engages this guy to post new articles with an attitude toward the law like that is beyond me. How can anyone defend *that*??

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 16, 2006 8:32:17 AM

Crossing illegally has only the meaning we choose to give to it; there is no obvious harm to it, as there is with activities universally agreed to be criminal like thievery or assault.

On which planet?

Before making statements like that, I would first confer with the school boards in California, New Mexico, and those parts of Texas and Florida where funding is stretched beyond all reasonable limits and classrooms are bursting at the seams. Then talk to the staffs of emergency rooms, who are required by law to treat everyone, regardless of his legal status or ability to pay.

And if we turn a blind eye to people "crossing an arbitrary line in the dirt" and do not document their comings and goings the way we do in those long, long lines at airports, are we willing to accept that some of those innocent, "line-in-the-dirt-crossing" people might wish us harm? I am loathe to invoke the terrorist bogeyman in this respect, but honestly, do you realize how simple it is, even now, for a person with nefarious intent to slip into the States from Canada or Mexico without so much as saying hello to a US official, much less have to produce identification or state the purpose of his visit?

Also, Florida is a bad example, given the amnesty deals received by Cuban immigrants.

Florida, the economy of which depends on both agriculture and service industries (tourism)--both of which hire large numbers of employees from Mexico, Guatemala, and other Central American countries--is actually a very good example of the sorts of immigration conflict America faces. You are referring to one group of people, the Cuban immigrants who mostly reside in or near Miami, who were afforded special status as refugees due to Cuba being under what the States deemed oppressive communist rule. They did not get "amnesty deals", and Cubans who attempt to come into the States via boat or raft--and get caught by the Coast Guard--are returned to their homeland in much the same way captured Mexicans are. You may or may not agree with our government's position on the special and often confusing status afforded Cuban immigrants, but that is an entirely different debate.

Posted by: litbrit | May 16, 2006 8:48:46 AM

Crossing illegally has only the meaning we choose to give to it; there is no obvious harm to it, as there is with activities universally agreed to be criminal like thievery or assault.

The legislature is charged with deciding what is 'universally agreed' upon.

Is that the response? Laws mean nothing? Will that poster also step aside as each individual looks into their own conscience to make his own decision on anit-discrimination laws? Do we leave that up to each individual? Should each doctor make his own decision about abortion, or should he follow the law?

Who is this idiot?

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 16, 2006 9:07:00 AM

Laws are rules that are promulgated in advance by duly elected officials via a democratic process. To cavalierly say that the law means nothing is an affront to our democratic way of life.

Gawd, you're a moron. You're a supporter of an Administration that has taken legal positions that are often considered bizarre by everyone not in the Administration. The legal position that the Administration takes allows it a freedom of action not impinged upon by other branches of government. And you seem fine with that. So, at a minimum, I'd have thought you believed that laws were rules to be interpreted, and that we couldn't really tell if a law was being broken absent that interpretation. Maybe the Bush Administration's position on undocumented workers is that they're not "illegal," but "magic."

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 16, 2006 9:23:52 AM

every time i speed i make it a point to rob at least a 7-11. why not? i already broke one law.

Posted by: fred's mom | May 16, 2006 9:28:54 AM

Laws are laws. That the Bush administration broke, breaks, and continues to break laws--not to mention commit offenses that, upon review, would appear highly unconstitutional--is a matter for the Congress, the courts, and ultimately, the electorate to address; it is not carte blanche for the rest of American law to be "interpreted" (read: broken) by individuals. If we don't agree with a law, we must address it through the proper legal channels or we will wind up with anarchy, and shortly thereafter, if history and trends mean anything, martial law.

Fred says: Laws are rules that are promulgated in advance by duly elected officials via a democratic process. It's what we have agreed upon in advance. To cavalierly say that the law means nothing is an affront to our democratic way of life.

I am afraid that this progressive woman must wholeheartedly agree with him, on that much anyway.

Posted by: litbrit | May 16, 2006 9:36:25 AM

litbrit:

You may agree with the sentiment in Fred's statement, but unless you voted for Bush in '04, you don't agree with the cynicism motivating it.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | May 16, 2006 9:43:47 AM

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