November 2, 2005
Bush Immigration Plan Ignores Reality
-- In politics, there are two ways to get in someone's good graces:
You can do something for them, or you can avoid doing
something to them.
It's a given
that President Bush needs to get back in the good graces of conservatives
in his own party. Thanks to the Harriet Miers debacle, and the
fact that Republicans are finally getting a good look at the ``compassionate
conservative'' they supported in two elections, Bush's support
from the hard right is, well, soft.
a president to do? First, he can do something for conservatives
and that's what he did by nominating U.S. Court of Appeals judge
Samuel A. Alito Jr. to sit on the Supreme Court.
Bush is mending fences, it also helps him if he can avoid doing
something that might cause grief to the Republican base, and specifically
to Republicans in Congress.
immigration reform comes in. President Bush has been promising
to fix the nation's immigration system for more than four years.
It was back in September 2001 -- just days before the 9/11 attacks
-- that Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox first talked about
pairing U.S. employers with Mexican workers.
A few weeks
ago, the administration unveiled the finished product. I admit,
my first thought was: ``I waited four years for this?''
before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff described the administration's immigration reform
plan as a three-legged stool. One leg is a request for 1,000 new
border patrol agents. Another leg is a call for 100 additional
worksite investigators to ensure that businesses comply with existing
laws. The third leg allows millions of temporary guest workers
that are now in the country illegally to apply for a three-year
work visa (with a one-time three-year extension) before returning
to their native country.
to amnesty, even if you'll never get the White House to invoke
the phrase. And speaking of phrases, these aren't really ``guest
workers'' per se -- at least not as the concept has come into
play historically. Unlike the bracero program of the
1940s, '50s, and '60s, these foreign workers are already here.
Legalizing their status won't affect the control we have over
our borders, or the number of immigrants who come to the United
States. Nor are these workers really temporary. Six years is enough
time for them to get married and have children -- children who
will then be U.S. citizens. What do we do then? Deport parent
the administration fell short. It needs a fourth leg on that stool
-- namely, tougher and more enforceable employer sanctions. The
White House talks about increasing worksite enforcement, but that's
not the same as toughening employer sanctions. You'll never affect
the supply unless you curb demand.
Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., took the cue. He said he wants to
have a debate about border enforcement first, perhaps as early
as February, and then consider guest workers later.
What about punishing employers?
being short on will, the Bush plan is short on common sense. If
the administration can't find 10 million illegal immigrants now,
what makes them think they'll have better luck in six years?
House can't answer that question. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
told senators that the administration's hope is that, when their
time is up, these workers will voluntarily step forward and go
they will. And where shall we test-launch the program -- fantasyland?
Dreier, R-Calif., gets it. He has a bill that increases the penalty
for knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant from $10,000 to $50,000.
He'd also make it easier for employers to go to jail. And yet,
Dreier's bill can't get any love from the administration.
wonder why that is. Most Republicans are never eager to crack
down on business, big or small. So, by leaving out employer sanctions,
the administration avoids putting Republicans in Congress in a
ticklish spot. Trouble is, it also avoids reality.
your latest nominee to the Supreme Court might just get you back
in the good graces of conservatives. But, since you refuse to
crack down on employers, good luck convincing the country you're
serious about stopping illegal immigration.
2005, The San Diego Union-Tribune