A New York Times editorial of Sept. 9 commenting on the recent battle on immigration legislation exhibited a naiveté that was, for me, beyond belief. The Times has led the battle for the McCain-Kennedy bill to provide a path to U.S. citizenship for 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants. While attacking President Bush on nearly every front nearly every day, on this issue it allied itself with the president, a supporter of the legislation.
In a dramatic ending to the legislative struggle, the American people rose up in their wrath in opposition to offering an amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens who had entered the country unlawfully or overstayed their visas by permitting them to take certain measures, including paying a fine, to become eligible for U.S. citizenship. People recalled the failure of legislation in 1986 — Simpson-Mazzoli — that was similar in nature and was supposed to end the need for a future amnesty for illegal immigrants. The number of illegal aliens entering the country thereafter increased. They knew there would sometime down the road be an effort to provide them with a similar opportunity and amnesty.
The Times editorial first tries to muddy the record, pontificating, “The supporters of comprehensive reform did not have the votes for their exotic blend of tough compassion of punishing then rewarding illegal immigrants with a non-amnesty that everybody called amnesty.”
Everybody called it amnesty because that’s what it was. Why is The Times afraid to call it by its rightful name?
Then, The Times reverts to form when the editorial turns to President Bush, stating, “Soon enough, President Bush disowned his commitment to comprehensive reform and offered an executive-branch crackdown.” The president couldn’t deliver Republicans who were abandoning the legislation in droves because their constituents were bombarding their representatives with demands that the porous borders of the U.S. be better protected so as to prevent the illegal immigrants — 80 percent from Latin America, with 60 percent from Mexico — from continuing to sneak into the U.S. hoping that they too would ultimately qualify for amnesty and U.S. citizenship.
The president has been weakened by his continued support of the war in Iraq and the constant attacks by the Times and other media on almost every front, international and domestic, respecting his policies. Republican members of Congress feared their irate constituents more than they did a lame-duck president.
The Times specifically denounced the town of Herndon, Virginia, for “plan[ning]to shut down a successful day labor hiring site rather than allow it to accept everybody, illegal immigrants too.” The Times apparently believes the current laws forbidding the employment of illegal aliens are to be disregarded and those aiding and abetting those hires should be immune from legal penalties or efforts to shut down the sites.
The Social Security Administration, according to the Times, is engaged in a “purge to get illegal immigrants off the books.” In fact, it has sent a letter to employers warning them if they continue to employ those who have been identified as illegal and not eligible to work, they are subject to severe penalties “and risk civil and even criminal charges for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.” A court has enjoined the Social Security Administration from continuing to send that letter. I would be shocked if on appeal the lower court were not overruled. Time will tell.
But, it is clear that the Times applauds the lower court decision. So what do we have? An effort by those who lost the battle on McCain-Kennedy seeking to prevent the only sensible way to get illegals to go back to their own countries — close all opportunities for employment by punishing employers who knowingly violate the law. During the debate on McCain-Kennedy, its supporters denounced opponents, saying it is not possible to put the illegal aliens on buses and trains to send them home, raising the specter of a Nazi-like U.S. sending immigrants to the Umschlag Platz to board boxcars. No one ever suggested anything like that. What has been urged is to end employment opportunities by enforcing the law, which would cause the illegals to go home on their own.
I have suggested we offer to pay their transportation costs and pay each member of the family returning to their native country a bonus of $500 payable at the nearest U.S. consulate in their home countries. But the opponents like the Times seek to continue the fight and battle efforts of those opposing the employment of illegals here in the U.S. The Times further editorializes, “And a crackdown in Prince William County, Va., inspired a boycott and a fiery march last week led by a testy group called Mexicanos Sin Fronteras. You didn’t think they were just going to roll over, did you? They’re immigrants: smart, industrious self-starters, like your grandparents.”
My reading of this is support for the demonstrators — Mexicans Without Borders — and two words interested me in the Times’ description of the march — “fiery” and “testy” and in addition the reference to “your grandparents.” It wasn’t my grandparents alone who came here; my mom and dad did too. And they came as legal immigrants.
I have no objection to immigrants. We in the U.S. have an immigration policy that is one of the most generous in the world — 1 million immigrants come every year, 750,000 permanent residents and 250,000 refugees, and they ultimately can apply for citizenship. If we need more immigrants, as I believe we do, perhaps double the number, let’s do that by making 2 million immigration visas available per year, legal visas, distributed to countries all over the world. Let’s issue temporary work permits for agricultural workers available to illegal aliens now in the U.S., provided they know at the end of the work contract — two or three years — they must go home and we find an enforceable way to implement that departure — one way being monthly reporting requirements. During the work contract, they must be assured of adequate wages, living accommodations and health insurance. Let’s also provide for compassionate responses for parents of children born in the U.S. and other reasonable exceptions to a mandatory return.
The New York Times editorial board members should consider that the collective wisdom shown by the Americans public in opposition to the McCain-Kennedy legislation may be a display of common sense that the Times lacks.
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