May 23, 2006
As far as I can see, when President Bush talks about a "rational middle
ground" on the immigration front, what he really means is that Congress
should pass more immigration laws that no American president will
bother to enforce.
So, when Bush talks about getting tougher on the border, while easing
the path to citizenship for some of the estimated 12 million illegal
immigrants in the country, I don't believe a word of his tough talk.
Where Bush sees some 12 million illegal immigrants yearning for legal
status, I see the millions more who will interpret a feckless new law
as an invitation to come to the United States, and U.S. immigration law
Only one thing will make me believe and support a compromise that
grants citizenship to illegal residents: If Bush orders the feds to
raid a high-profile employer every week for the rest of the year and
then prosecutes some of the suits who wittingly hire illegal workers.
Forget the photo-op at the border.
Give me a photo-op that will help depolarize the magnet of American
After all, it's not exactly a state secret which industries and
employers hire illegal workers. The utter failure to prosecute these
employers would be baffling, except that it is so clear that neither
Bush nor senators of either party want to enforce the law.
On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,
proclaimed that California was the biggest state when it comes to
hiring undocumented workers, with many undocumented workers in
landscaping, construction, the service sector and agriculture. She
argued, "Employer sanctions don't work. Every time an employer is
raided and arrested, there is a public outcry, because basically people
have sympathy with those who are here and work hard, long hours and
want to live the American dream."
Public outcry? I have sympathy with those who come here and work
illegally -- but not for the executives who hire them contrary to
The closest thing to an outcry I can remember occurred in 2003, when
House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi accused the Bushies of
"terrorizing" workers after Immigration and Customs Enforcement
officials raided a number of Wal-Mart stores for hiring and contracting
Pelosi certainly wasn't in step with the 59 percent of California
voters who in 1994 supported Proposition 187 to withhold services from
Some conservatives argue that illegal immigration is good for the
economy. Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute recently told me that
if government action forced industries such as meatpacking to pay
higher wages, owners would respond by moving their operations to
To which Chicago attorney Howard Foster, who has initiated class-action
lawsuits against those who hire illegal aliens, responded that those
companies "in effect" already have moved elsewhere.
But instead of moving their plants abroad, employers import workers --
and their poverty -- from Third World countries to the United States.
At least Bush has stopped referring to "the jobs Americans will not
take." In his primetime speech last week, Bush spoke of "the jobs
Americans are not doing." It seems the Bushies are fed up with being
reminded that Americans will take those jobs -- if they pay better
Language is important. It's so important that the Senate voted 63-34 to
proclaim English as America's "national language." Yes, English is so
important that Washington struggles to mangle the meaning of every word
in the debate -- and to pass a "national language" provision that, like
everything else in the Senate immigration package, is designed to
appear tough but is utterly feckless.
Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., complain bitterly
that it is unfair to refer to what they call "earned citizenship" as
"amnesty," when amnesty is the proper term for a law that would grant
citizenship to illegal residents. Senators tout "guest worker"
provisions, even if the provisions will be so under-enforced that most
of America's "guests" will never leave.
I buy that Bush believes in his heart he is doing the right thing on
immigration. But he doesn't show enough faith in his agenda to sell it
truthfully. And he doesn't show enough faith in the law to enforce it
vigorously -- especially on white-collar criminals.
Ditto the Senate. Surely, members of Washington's reputed deliberative
body know the English provision is a scam.
When it comes to the immigration debate in Washington, double talk is
America's national language.