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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Said Comprehensive, Not Incomprehensible

I used to be an "open borders" guy. But not so much anymore. Tom Bensman has a series in the San Antonio Express-News explains why in a four-part series (highly recommended--part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Here's an extended truffle passage:

Since 9-11, the U.S. government has made guarding the 1,952-mile Mexican border a top priority. One million undocumented immigrants are caught each year trying to cross the southern and northern U.S. borders.

Because all but a tiny fraction of those arrested crossing the southern border are Mexican or Central American, issues of border security get framed accordingly and cast in the image of America's neighbors to the south. Right or wrong, in this country the public face of illegal immigration has Latino features.
But there are others coming across the Rio Grande...

"They are not all economic migrants," said attorney Janice Kephart, who served as legal counsel for the 9-11 Commission and co-wrote its final staff report. "I do get frustrated when people who live in Washington or Illinois say we don't have any evidence that terrorists are coming across. But there is evidence."

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers, agents along both borders have caught more than 5,700 special-interest immigrants since 2001. But as many as 20,000 to 60,000 others are presumed to have slipped through, based on rule-of-thumb estimates typically used by homeland security agencies.

"You'd like to think at least you're catching one out of 10," McCraw said. "But that's not good in baseball and it's certainly not good in counterterrorism."

(Hard Hat Tip: Hugh Hewitt)

Heritage has outlined what the Beltway fast-talking is covering, and Thomas Sowell reminds us how little has been done to contain the border security problem via the fence. (HHT on the second link: Laura Ingraham)

I probably qualify as a moderate on this issue:

To fix what ails the country...requires a different calculus. Recognizing the dignity of the migrant first could have been the master stroke to seize the agenda. The National Guard and drawing out otherwise law-abiding denizens of the melting pot can only produce marginal benefit over the course of years... Consider that both legal and illegal immigrants represent a still small percentage of the adult work force and that the economic impact of immigrants is something far less than 1% of GDP, although the burdens are concentrated in a few states. Substantially increasing the quotas for legal immigration and streamlining INS procedures will address many of these issues. It is aligned with recognizing the dignity of each human person. It reduces the incentive for immediate, massive illegal immigration. It puts more people into the system for tracking while they assimilate the culture. It provides an opportunity for the federal government to facilitate dispersing immigrants so as not to be concentrated in just a few states. It eliminates the ridiculous charge of being anti-immigrant. And it puts a little lustre back on the shining city on the hill.
It seems pretty straightforward to me and ought to include:
  1. Build the fence now
  2. Substantially increase (legal) immigration quotas
  3. Promote/enhance guest workers (skilled and unskilled)
  4. Provide a path to citizenship for those illegal aliens here
  5. Create an alternative punishment for illegal aliens that at least covers the cost of bringing those "in the shadow" into "the light."

In the mean time, I suppose we'll have to wait.

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