Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Illegal immigration has become such an urgent and critical problem that in August the governors of Arizona and New Mexico were prompted to declare states of emergency along their borders.

It's estimated that 4,000 illegal aliens cross the 375-mile border between Arizona and Mexico every day. Last year, more than half of all illegal aliens apprehended were caught in Arizona. For every person the border patrol picks up, at least three slip into the country safely. Most obtain phony identification papers, including bogus Social Security numbers, to create new identities and mask their unlawful presence.

Transporting illegal immigrants requires fleets of stolen cars, which explains why Arizona ranks No. 1 in cars stolen per capita, with 56,000 vehicles ripped off in 2003.

In September, the commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Robert C. Bonner, resigned in frustration over US policy after four years on the job. It was obvious to him just how impotent US border control efforts are.

Bonner had clashed with the Bush administration over his support for the use of civilian "minutemen" along the U.S.-Mexico border to assist border patrol agents. President Bush, who's disregard of the problem forced concerned civilians to act in the first place, has equated the volunteer group with "vigilantes."

Saying that he was not asked to resign, Bonner indicated that it was just "a good time to move on."

His departure left three of the top positions within the Department of Homeland Security vacant: the chiefs of Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Having vacancies at the top positions in the departments that oversee immigration and border control just make a bad situation worse.

The government recently announced that the U.S. Latino population has increased 17% in the past four years. Latinos now number 41 million people in the US, or one out of every seven people. And presently, Latinos account for fifty percent of all US population growth, a percentage they are expected to maintain for the next 20 years.

No one knows exactly how many illegals are living in the U.S., but estimates run as high as 15 million.

Experts contend that 3 million illegal aliens flooded into the U.S. last year alone. It was roughly three times the number of immigrants who came to the U.S. legally. And at least 4 million people who arrived in the U.S. legally on work, tourist or education visas have decided to ignore immigration laws and stay permanently.

Many Americans are upset that illegal aliens often receive government-funded health care, education benefits and subsidized housing, and public-opinion polls show that Americans overwhelmingly favor a crackdown on illegal immigration.

But Latinos appear conflicted in their views of illegal immigration. A TIME Magazine poll found that 62% of US Latinos think illegal immigration is a "very" or "extremely" serious problem. Yet, 62% think that illegal immigrants should be able to get a US driver's license.

Other Americans think that the problem has clearly gotten out of hand. And situations like the following only fuel the fire.

In August, a US court granted two illegal El Salvadoran immigrants a civil judgment that gave them possession of a 70 acre Arizona ranch owned by a "vigilante" leader who they claim threatened them with a gun in March 2003 when he caught them sneaking into the US.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has done nothing to help the US with this problem, in fact he may have encouraged it. In 2000, Fox made his position clear when he called for a fully open border within 10 years, with "a free flow of people, workers" moving between the two countries. That free flow would quite clearly move in just one direction.

Under U.S. immigration law, illegal immigrants can be imprisoned after the second offense, but that almost never happens no matter how many times they're caught. The U.S. legal and prison systems would be completely overwhelmed.

While proponents of illegal immigration contend that illegals take jobs that Americans won't, evidence suggests that it is low wage rates, not the type of job, that American workers reject. The greatest impact of illegal immigration is on unskilled American workers at the bottom of the wage scale.

Of the 400,000 illegal aliens who have been ordered to be deported, 80,000 have criminal records—and the agency in charge, the Homeland Security Department, has no idea where any of them are, including those from countries that support terrorism.

Most illegals, including those with arrest records, are not jailed while awaiting a hearing. That's because Congress has failed to appropriate enough money to build sufficient holding facilities. Rather, the immigrants are released on their promise to return. But they don't.

As for illegals already serving time in U.S. jails, state law-enforcement authorities are not permitted to keep prisoners beyond their original sentence. When Homeland Security agents fail to show up promptly, which is often, the alien convicts are released back into the community.

There are two competing bills in the Senate that would deal with the illegal immigration problem. A number of Republican Congressman have told the White House that stronger enforcement is their top priority this Fall, and Tom Delay has said that President Bush has privately admitted making a mistake in how he's dealt with the issue in the past.

Experts contend that if the government simply issued a counterfeit proof Social Security card with an embedded photograph, and if all U.S. employers were mandated to require it under penalty of law, the illegal immigration problem could be solved.

Hopefully things will soon change. The time for our government to get serious about this problem is long since overdue.

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