“Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room but for one flag, the American flag...We have room but for one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.” ––Theodore Roosevelt, 1907
Strong words on immigration from Teddy Roosevelt, not the kind we hear much of today. On the contrary, recent U.S. presidents have found themselves on the horns of an immigration dilemma — a predicament that seemingly defies satisfactory solution — politically damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Reagan’s amnesty legislation in the end was unsatisfactory, with its well-intentioned provisions ignored by large numbers of illegal aliens already here and by those who continued to crash U.S. borders. President George W. Bush’s 2007 pathway-to-citizenship failed to garner the needed votes in Congress, when U.S. citizens, long suffering and silent on the subject, rose up, demanding that U.S. borders be secured first before even considering a new temporary worker program.
Only too aware of these political pitfalls, President Barack Obama on June 19 issued a short and less-than-decisive immigration statement. Speaking to the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, the president committed his administration to “comprehensive immigration reform”; but left vague the exact timing for such reform, saying “Wait and see”.
The Prayer Breakfast and Conference were sponsored by Esperanza USA, founded by Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., of Philadelphia. The mission of this network of Hispanic Christians, churches, and ministries is to raise awareness and identify resources that strengthen the Hispanic community. Rev. Cortes also is founder and president of Nueva Esperanza, Inc., the largest Hispanic faith-based community development corporation in the country.
Obama’s political reasons for addressing the Prayer Breakfast were sound, considering that he rode to victory on minority voters — including 74 percent of the Hispanic vote. He won the hearts and souls of Hispanics with his support of immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens and their extended families. In the 2008 presidential election, Hispanic voters chose to turn their back on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., coauthor of the 2007 pathway-to-citizenship bill, who had failed to deliver.
Considering the fate of the Reagan amnesty and the Bush pathway to citizenship, immigration is a political quagmire that the president may want to sidestep, as did Bill Clinton. Obama, however, is being prodded on immigration reform by Hispanic lobbyists, left-wing Democrats, and One Worlders such as George Soros and his oxymoronic non-profit political activist groups.
An oft-delayed White House Immigration Conference finally was held June 25, during which Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared as the author of the latest round of immigration amnesty bills. Schumer realizes that this high-wire balancing act will not be a crowd pleaser, as U.S. citizens are against amnesty for the 12 million to 30 million illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S. Economic hard times do not auger well for immigration reform, especially if it shapes up as yet another open-door policy for those “undocumented immigrants” seeking educational, financial, and health-care handouts.
The Obama administration, which reads the daily polls it orders, thus knows that U.S. citizens are alarmed by the number of illegal aliens entering even the country despite “enhanced” border security. The administration also knows the stress that illegal aliens place on state, county, and municipal budgets. Proposals for a new legal temporary worker (LTW) program, which would seem worthy of consideration by Congress, is a perfect example of the immigration dilemma — businesses support it, labor unions oppose it. The administration does not have the votes for comprehensive immigration reform at the moment, thus the “wait and see” message.
In the interim, where the president cannot achieve change by executive order, he has his cabinet changing federal immigration rules and regulations — Congress passes immigration legislation, but the executive branch of the government writes the rules and regulations. In June, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took an action that, in effect, changes federal law by granting illegal aliens who face deportation an additional grounds for appeal and delay –– that of “poor legal representation.”
Holder also banned Georgia from enforcing its Verification of Voter Registration law designed to ensure that only U.S. citizens vote. The attorney general used the irrational rationale that U.S. citizenship requirements were “impacting” minority voters –– as well they might. Requirements for U.S. citizenship, still in effect, state that all new citizens must be able to read, write, and speak English. Holder added insult to injury with a minority-appeasing trifecta by dropping a voting intimidation case that the George W. Bush Department of Justice had won in federal court against members of the New Black Panther Party.
A major obstacle to even drafting a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill is the uncertainty regarding the actual number of illegal aliens actually residing in the U.S. Counting heads in a ghost population does present problems, but whether the number is 12 million or more realistically upwards of 30 million men, women, and children, it is safe to assume that immigrant numbers will multiply, once family and extended family members are permitted to coat-tail on a pathway to citizenship. Also families of under-educated immigrants working at the lower end of the economic ladder are likely to further burden educational, social, and welfare services. Environmentalists remain uncharacteristically silent on the question of whether illegal aliens place a drain on the nation’s environmental resources, including water, electricity, sewage treatment, and garbage disposal.
Emergency health care for illegal aliens is already law. The 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) states that no person can go untreated in an emergency room, regardless of their citizenship or ability to pay. In border states, more than half of ER costs go unpaid, and hospitals are closing by the score. In 2004, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured determined that U.S. hospitals went uncompensated for $40.7 billion worth of ER care, with “immigrants” listed among ER user groups. Estimates for 2008 have the nation’s hospitals experiencing a loss of $49.2 billion, directly linked to uninsured illegal aliens swamping ER facilities.
The impact of illegal alien workers is increasing, as jobless rates for all workers head for 10 percent nationwide and 11.5 percent in California as of June. The current economic slowdown is a factor in the reduced numbers of illegal alien apprehensions at the Southern Border, a reduction of 30 percent. Those illegal aliens crossing the border today are coming not for jobs but for health, social, and welfare benefits. Supporting the Push-Pull theory of immigration, they are being pushed by homelands unable to provide living wages, and they are being pulled by the Obama administration’s actions that seek citizenship-neutral social and welfare benefits. If passed, universal health care will cover illegal aliens. Beware of long adjectives. “Comprehensive” immigration reform and “universal” health care are joined at the hip.
Obama’s vision of a changed America includes comprehensive immigration reform (open borders). Standing in his way are the 70 percent of U.S. citizens (Hispanics among them), who hold that illegal aliens should not be given special status, open-ended entitlements, or an easy path to citizenship. A nagging suspicion exists that not all of those in a rush for citizenship have the best interest of the U.S. at heart. Recent domestic terrorist arrests and convictions feed these suspicions.
In “Dreams from My Father,” Obama wrote: “In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.” He went on to explain that his work in black communities held a promise of redemption. Obama appears to be pursuing a promise of redemption in changing U.S. business, economics, governance, national defense, demography, culture, and social mores. If comprehensive immigration reform does not top the Obama administration’s list, it remains a priority in restructuring the republic. U.S. citizens, Hispanics among them, are increasingly uneasy about the Obama vision of redemptive change, which is looking more and more like a nanny state ruling a zombie nation.
James Walsh is a former federal prosecutor.
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