Monday, May 15, 2006

On the speech...

I think President Bush gave up a lot more than he should, particularly on the wall part of this.

A real wall does no good when people tunnel under it.

Some of the key points:

The issue of immigration stirs intense emotions, and in recent weeks, Americans have seen those emotions on display.
Both the good and the bad have been on display. The good includes statesmen like George W. Bush. Sadly, the bad have largely outnumbered Bush, from International ANSWER's attampt to hijack the pro-immigrant side of the debate, to the hard-liners on the right who have made all sorts of threats.

We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system. For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border, and millions have stayed.

Here, he is discussing the symptoms of the problem more than the actual causes of the problem. But the symptoms are what most people see.

Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems. Yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. They are a part of American life, but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.

Let's be honest. Not all of those who have come here over the southern border are MS-13 or al-Qaeda terrorists. Any solution to the problem has to recognize that fact. And to be honest, America could do far worse in this regard. Just ask France.

Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.

Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.

A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers, and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.

The concept of signal-to-noise ratio is important here. Right now, we apprehend about 1.2 million people a year coming over the border (roughly 350,000-500,000 make it). All these folks are not hardened criminals. Most would gladly jump for a chance to enter legally.

Why not create that program and thus be able to focus on the real threat to national security, specifically, the coyotes?

Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.

Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant, and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise, nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently, and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record.

I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I've just described is not amnesty, it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.

The President wants people to pay a penalty. And they also have to make restitution (in the form of back taxes). In other words, this is not an amnesty. There is punishment. It is just not the punishment demanded by Michelle Malkin, Tom Tancredo and others.

An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The Senate should act by the end of this month so we can work out the differences between the two bills, and Congress can pass a comprehensive bill for me to sign into law.

America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue, and as we work it out, all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.

I'll explain this in plain English. Nobody is going to get to try "their way" first. If the pro-immigration side gets what they want, they have no incentive to help secure the border. If the hard-liners get the enforcement/border security they want, they will keep demanding more and more - and will never consent to a guest-worker program. Either everyone gets part of the deal, or nobody will.

Second, his last sentence should be repeated for those, like Vox Day: We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say. Anyone who has a problem with that sentence is someone who I have little respect for.

Finally, this paragraph:

As President, I've had the opportunity to meet people of many backgrounds, and hear what America means to them. On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. And when asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him, and the chance to become an American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.

As far as I am concerned, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean is far more American than Vox Day could ever hope to be. The same goes for Tom Tancredo and Peter King. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean risked everything for this country, including his life. Can Tancredo or King say the same thing? Can Mr. Day?

Finally, a word to Hugh Hewitt, who seems to distrust this speech. You haven't read my blog, so I'll just remind you that people are already digging tunnels under the border. How is a wall supposed to stop that? The only folks benefiting from a wall will the the government contractors who build it, and the politicians who get photo-ops. Those who don't tunnel under will just make makeshift boats and sail around the wall to the US. Are you going to suggest walling off the coastline, too?

I don't object to more technology. I don't object to additional manpower. But a wall is a useless waste of taxpayer dollars. It's just politically-correct pork. And I can think of better ways to spend that money. Like reactivating the Iowa and Wisconsin, for starters...

Sorry, Hugh, but this is just a pretext that will be seized by many to claim President Bush is not serious. Far too many bloggers on the right made up their minds before the first word of the practice session was aired. Maybe you need to think about that.

1 comment:

The Ajarn said...

Once again I find your thinking clear and reasonable. You have moved up to my number three must read blog at this point. Sorry, but I still love the way Michelle writes and I am really hooked on Powerline.

Since I live in Bangkok, I did not watch the President's speech and must rely in the internet to get the content. Your analysis was very helpful in understanding the finer points.

Most of us retired military guys tend to be a bit on the "Michelle" side when approaching the problems of immigration. I must force myself to slow down, take a deep breath and put myself in the shoes of those people coming to America illegally. The majority do not do it for drugs or terrorism but for a good reason - life sucks where they are living. Putting up with all the crap that they do, does indeed mean something. It does not make it right, but it does make it human.

Soon, very soon, I believe you will move to the number two slot in my must read blogs.