President Bush this week unveiled a new initiative on illegal immigration that combines more stringent enforcement at the Mexican border with a 'œguest worker' program to meet the needs of employers. Flanked by black helicopters of the U.S. Border Patrol, Bush told an audience near Tucson that securing the Mexican border would require 1,000 more border agents, the expansion of walls and fences in certain areas, and the increased use of advanced technology such as unmanned surveillance drones. The border crackdown is designed to appeal to the Republican Party's conservative base, which sees illegal immigration as a drain on social services, a cause of crime, and a possible cover for terrorist infiltration.
Bush's plan, though, also speaks to the concerns of employers, who rely on cheap immigrant labor. The president said that increased enforcement at the border must be paired with a guest worker program that would allow the 7 million to 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country to work here legally. 'œThe American people should not have to choose between a welcoming society and a lawful society,' said Bush. 'œWe can have both at the same time.'
What the editorials said
It's about time Bush woke up to the problem of our porous borders, said The Christian Science Monitor. Clearly, he's worried that his inaction on this hot-button issue could cost Republicans their control of Congress in 2006. But if Bush wants conservatives to come out to the polls next year, he'll have to do better than this. 'œThe U.S. needs to shore up its border protection first. Then it can be generous in taking in the world's huddled masses.'
What's next, said The Wall Street Journal, an 'œEast Germanstyle wall to keep all those aspiring gardeners, busboys, and chambermaids at bay'? Believe it or not, some Republican congressmen have already proposed building a 2,000-mile-long wall along the Rio Grande at the estimated cost of $8 billion. The fact is that no physical or legal barrier will ever 'œstop human beings who are determined to seek a better life.' That's why there are more illegal immigrants in the country than ever, despite a half-dozen get-tough laws passed over the last decade.
In attempting to thread a political needle, Bush carefully 'œavoided the toughest issue,' said The Washington Post. What can the government do 'œwith the 11 million illegal immigrants who live and work here already'? In order not to infuriate conservatives, Bush came out against giving these people 'œautomatic' citizenship, but then 'œpunted the issue to Congress.' Congress should accept the challenge. 'œWe hope a consequential debate on immigration has finally begun.'
What the columnists said
A wall along the border is the only realistic solution, said former U.S. immigration official Jan C. Ting in the Phoenix Arizona Republic. Critics say it would be too costly, but a few more border guards and a few flying drones won't get the job done. Nor will arresting people and letting them go, so they can just sneak back into the U.S. A nation that 'œput a man on the moon and a rover on Mars' surely is capable of sealing its borders.
How dumb does Bush think conservatives are? said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. All his tough talk is 'œRove bait for red-staters,' designed to get us on board for immigration reform that will turn out to be not much more than 'œan amnesty for illegal aliens.' His plans to secure the border will do little, since 40 percent of illegals are people who arrive legally but overstay their visas. Instead, Bush should crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, drying up the jobs that lure people in the first place. He wouldn't even need new laws, just the political will to enforce ones that are already on the books.