Monday, January 24, 2005

US Border security

Border security should be an important issue for President Bush in his second term:

President Bush last week said he plans to renew his push for a change in immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to obtain work permits - a proposal for an illegal immigration "amnesty light."

The president is right to say that immigration laws need change, but his own plan is the wrong way to go about it.

There is an enormous gap between what the political elites in Washington - both Democrats and Republicans - believe in regard to immigration and what voters clearly want.

Much of official Washington seems to favor open borders outright, through continued benign neglect of a growing problem. Meanwhile, nearly every time voters are given an opportunity, they vote for enforcing America's borders.

Americans basically want to welcome immigrants in an orderly way, but at the same time they want the borders to be enforced and citizenship to remain the privilege that it is.

The current wave of immigration is like no other in our history, with a huge portion of low-skilled immigrants arriving illegally from Mexico and a few other Latin American countries.

The demographics of illegal immigrants are overwhelming border-state welfare and health care systems and are rapidly changing the character of high-immigration areas, not necessarily for the better.

A significant part of the problem is that government policies, against the wishes of voters, no longer encourage assimilation into America, but instead foster ethnic separatism.

More than three years after Sept. 11, the border not only remains plenty porous enough for terrorists to cross with ease, but also political leaders remain strangely blind to these new risks even as they enthusiastically embrace airport shakedowns of grandmothers in wheelchairs.

President Bush likely would find strong popular support for a policy that emphasizes border security, more balanced immigration and assimilation.

If he continues to pursue amnesty light, however, he risks alienating a significant part of his political base and putting at risk other elements of his second-term agenda.

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