Knoxville News Sentinel - GEORGE KORDA
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander didn’t have much to say last Friday about the "comprehensive immigration reform" compromise being championed by Republican President George W. Bush and Democrat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. With good reason.
Taking a moment to pour himself a glass of ice tea at Wright’s Cafeteria, Alexander said, "George, it was just announced last night; I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it."
"There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of folks who haven’t seen it but have already made up their minds," I said.
The senator laughed.
As governor, Alexander had a very pragmatic and realistic view of his job. He used to say a governor’s responsibility is to chart a course of action and convince a majority of the people it is the right thing to do.
President Bush has failed to follow that reasonable approach with respect to immigration. He has failed to safeguard the borders of the United States and uphold the rule of law.
For decades our government has been lax in guarding our southern border. News reports reveal that at least two of the alleged terrorists who planned to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, entered the United States illegally as children with their family some years ago – through Mexico.
How many others might there be?
Since 9/11, there is no excuse.
Several months ago President Bush went to Mexico and pledged to the Mexican people that he would do everything he could to pass immigration reform.
The President of the United States went to another country and made a promise to its people that he would do all he could to enable them to flee their country for ours. One would think that the Mexican government would be insulted. However, they’re counting the cash immigrants are sending home from the U.S. That covers a multitude of sins.
Here is what President Bush said at the announcement of the compromise legislation: "Immigration is a tough issue for a lot of Americans. The agreement reached today is one that will help enforce our borders, but equally importantly, it will treat people with respect.
"This is a bill where people who live here in our country will be treated without amnesty, but without animosity?I really am anxious to sign a comprehensive immigration bill as soon as I possibly can. Today we took a good step toward that direction."
This proposal is not amnesty in the president’s mind, but few others. However, the salient statement in Bush’s remarks was: "equally importantly, it will treat people with respect."
Respect in the president’s world view seems to be that it is somehow the right of people who do not live in the U.S. to come here at their discretion regardless of what effect it has on our national fabric, social service systems, or on taxpayers.
Discussion on the TV nightly political talk shows suggests that this compromise is positive because it will somehow strengthen border security. That’s a smokescreen. Nothing has stopped border security from being strengthened to this point except a lack of political will and a desire, for whatever reason, to enforce existing laws.
What our government is saying, clearly and without equivocation, is that if enough people break the law the law will be ignored. That’s why no one should seriously think that illegal immigration will end with this legislation.
Why should anyone expect the new law to be obeyed when the laws on the books have been ignored not only by illegal immigrants, but by our leaders?
The president has done a lousy job bringing the country around to his way of thinking. That’s a failing that will cost the country dearly.
Immigrants who come to the U.S. legally should be welcomed and embraced.
Immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally should not be rewarded.
The irony of the president’s failure is that securing the borders years ago would have been a more effective way of bringing about his guest worker program. People would have more confidence in him, and in his word.
If Congress rams this bill through in the short time frame that has been discussed, everyone will pay a political price, Republicans and Democrats. But with a Republican in the White House it’s the GOP that will take the brunt of national frustration with the president’s policy.
If George W. Bush’s philosophy were more like Lamar Alexander’s, Bush – and we – would be better off.