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Amnesty is Not the Answer to Illegal Immigration
by Robert R. Eberle, Ph.D., GOPUSA
06 January 2004Homeland Security

With 8-12 million illegals in the United States, we are clearly not enforcing our existing immigration laws.


Beginning with comments by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on December 9 and continuing through information released from the White House ever since, a growing number of conservatives are bracing for what appears to be the administration's push to grant amnesty to a sizeable portion of the estimated 8-12 million illegal aliens currently residing within the borders of the United States.  Although the "a" word is not used and even denied, this rose, by any other name, still stinks.

Speaking at a townhall meeting in Miami, Secretary Ridge said, "The bottom line is, as a country we have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way, but also as a country decide what our immigration policy is and then enforce it."

Ridge is right about several things.  First, there are 8-12 million illegal aliens in this country, and second, we must decide what our immigration policy is and then enforce it.

However, one should immediately ask, "Don't we have an immigration policy?"

Policy?  Maybe.  Immigration laws?  Definitely.  The problem is that with 8-12 million illegals in the United States, we are clearly not enforcing our existing immigration laws.

"I'm not saying make them citizens, because they violated the law to get here," Ridge added in an attempt to clarify the matter. "So you don't reward this type of conduct by turning over a citizenship certificate. You determine how you can legalize their presence, then ... you make a decision that, from this day forward, this is the process of entry, and if you violate that process of entry we have the resources to cope with it."

Didn't the secretary just say above that America is not trying to reward illegal behavior?  Doesn't granting "legal status" to those here illegally reward the illegal behavior?  Am I missing something?

Reaction to Ridge's comments was swift.  In a letter signed by 36 Members of Congress, Ridge was told that the "mere discussion of the possibility of amnesty" encourages illegal immigration.  The members expressed their "grave concern" over his remarks and asked for clarification.

"We must enforce existing immigration laws," the congressional members wrote. "The law enforcement approach would reduce the migration of illegal aliens, reduce the ill-gotten net gain from illegal immigration, raise American wages, improve American working conditions, reduce the overall illegal population, and reduce the number of crimes committed by illegal aliens."

The letter was signed by conservative leaders such as Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. J. D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Rep. Charles Pickering (R-MS), among others.

The members bring up an obvious point in their letter which is being overlooked by many of today's lawmakers:  amnesty programs don't work.

In 1986, under former President Reagan, a general amnesty program was put in place whereby approximately 2.7 million illegal aliens were granted legal status. In addition, Congress enacted a new set of laws and policies aimed at eliminating illegal immigration.  The result?  Rather than looking at 2.7 million illegal aliens, we are now faced with the problem of 8-12 million people who are inside the United States illegally.  Clearly, the efforts did not end illegal immigration, but rather sent the message that illegal behavior can be rewarded.  Is that really the message America wants to send again?

At his end of the year press conference, President Bush said that his administration is "firmly against" blanket amnesty.

"I have constantly said that we need to have an immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee," Bush explained. "It makes sense that that policy go forward. And we're in the process of working that through now so I can make a recommendation to the Congress."

The President is right in that it is smart for America to have an immigration policy which aids business whenever possible.  If there are certain jobs which are not being filled by Americans in the work force, then having a policy in place in which someone from another country can step forward and perform the task is a good idea.  However, granting legal status to those in the country illegally does not help the problem.  In addition to the economy, we must also look at security.  Rewarding illegal behavior only encourages more illegal behavior.  Unless we do more to end the flow of illegal immigration, we are asking for trouble.  What's easier:  hunting down terrorists who have come to America illegally and who are now embedded and hidden until the time to strike, or stopping the terrorists from entering in the first place?

There is no doubt that some form of guest worker program will be one day be heading toward the President's desk.  If drafted correctly, this type of program could be a win-win for all sides: business, immigration advocates, and all Americans concerned with homeland security.  But, a guest worker program will only work if thorough background and security checks are performed prior to someone entering the country.  Security starts at the borders, and men and women who are here illegally should not be afforded a status which is currently being sought by countless other men and women through legal channels.

It's up to all Americans, not just those who are politically conservative, but all who are concerned with homeland security to say no to amnesty.  Illegal activity should be prosecuted, not rewarded.

Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA.com
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