2004 January 26 Monday
Bush Immigration Amnesty Proposal Sparking Rush For Border
Mexicans who believe the Bush Administration is going to offer an illegal alien amnesty are rushing to cross the border in order to qualify.
WASHINGTON – More than half the people accused of using phony documents to sneak through the San Ysidro port of entry in recent days said they were trying to get into the United States because of President Bush's proposal to give temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
Of 162 people stopped for using phony documents at San Ysidro since Bush announced his plan on Jan. 7, 94 said they were trying to enter because of the proposed new work program, according to sources present at a Wednesday meeting of a border-security working group in San Diego.
Border Patrol agents are very angry about George W. Bush's proposal.
Border Patrol Agent Bud Tuffly, who has patrolled the desert in Arizona for nearly 20 years, recalled the surge of illegal immigrants who crossed the border in advance of Congress' landmark 1986 amnesty.
"We saw the numbers skyrocket and all this naturally encourages them to come across," said Tuffly, a union representative in Tucson, Ariz. "You have to do your job. It's very demoralizing to do your job. We have rocks thrown at us daily. We had a guy from Yuma who died. Why?"
Charles Showalter of the National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council says the Bush Administration proposal would be a huge burden on the already overburdened Border Patrol.
The anticipated deluge of would-be temporary workers and their families would affect legal ports of entry, prompting a need for more inspectors, he added.
"This won't be just a temporary spike in workload," said Showalter, whose group represents 18,000 employees of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, including 5,600 border inspectors. "It's going to clobber the system."
All those temporary workers whose work permits expired would have to be rounded up for deportation. But the US government is not serious about rounding up existing illegals. So the importation of millions more workers on work permits would just increase the ranks of the illegals as the work permits expired.
Bottom line about this latest proposal: George W. Bush is not proposing to round up and deport all the illegals currently here to make slots available for the workers who would come under a worker permit system. So Bush's proposal is just a legal pipeline to increase the flow of low-skilled foreigners into the United States to drive wages and living conditions of all Americans lower.
The last amnesty increased the flow of illegals into the United States.
The federal government's offer of amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986 — almost a third of them in Southern California — was intended largely to reduce immigration. But even by conservative estimates, the number of illegal immigrants has doubled since then, while the overall population of the nation has increased about 20%. Agents say they have no reason to believe the results will be any different this time.
The amnestied workers were able to serve as a support network for new illegals. Plus, each time there is an amnesty the incentive to come to the US to be here for a future amnesty increases as foreigners come to expect additional amnesties.
The Bush Administration is trying to silence Border Patrol agents so that the agents do not complain to the press about Bush's proposal.
The Bush administration's proposal to offer amnesty to illegal immigrant workers has prompted federal officials to instruct border patrol agents not to disclose information that might reflect poorly on the idea, a government document shows.
Meanwhile, U.S. border patrol agents have been told to ask a series of questions when they capture illegal immigrants, including whether the immigrants have heard of President George W. Bush's proposal.
The Bush Administration would like very much to be able to shut up Border Patrol agents and take away their use of their right to free speech to criticise their political masters on the issue of immigration (and I can't believe that I'm beginning to sound like the paranoics who rail against John Ashcroft). The National Border Patrol Council of the American Federation of Government Employees which is a part of the AFL-CIO union organization has set up a NoAmnesty.com web site where they describe their opposition to the Bush proposal. But they start out describing how their very right to do so is threatened:
The National Border Patrol Council is the labor organization that represents all 10,000 non-supervisory U.S. Border Patrol employees. Under current civil service law, its representatives are free to speak openly about matters of public concern, including illegal immigration. However, this freedom could be severely restrained or even extinguished under the Homeland Security Act, which granted broad authority to high-level bureaucrats to set up new personnel rules for all employees within the new Department. Should this occur, the public will lose the most authoritative and honest voice on immigration issues – that of the dedicated men and women who enforce our Nation’s immigration laws 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On January 7, 2004, President George Bush outlined his proposals for immigration law reform. The National Border Patrol Council finds his proposal to be a slap in the face to each and every man and woman who has ever worn the Border Patrol uniform. Border Patrol Agents risk their lives on a daily basis protecting the citizens of the United States, and many have lost their lives doing so. The President has apparently decided that cheap labor and votes outweigh obedience to laws and the sacrifices of dedicated law enforcement officers.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies describes how all the elites in Washington are in favor of sabotage of immigration law enforcement.
This lack of political commitment to the work of a particular government agency is nothing new. When Republicans are in power, agencies they would like to get rid of but can't, like the Labor Department, tend to be denied resources and political support in order to inhibit their ability to function. Likewise, Democratic administrations, whether or not they actually "loathe the military," still accord it low priority, leading to erosion in pay and readiness. Hobbling the military is, of course, a much bigger deal than hobbling the Labor Department, but the impulse is the same.
What's unique about the immigration bureaucracy is that no one in the political elite wants it to work properly, so it remains underfunded and unappreciated, regardless of the party in power.
Do not believe the lies that are made that immigration law is unenforceable or that the southern border can not be protected against illegal crossings. The reason so many illegal aliens are in the United States is that a succession of presidents and Congresses have bowed to the will of various interest groups to sabotage immigration law enforcement. There are many ways that immigration law could be enforced if the political will existed to do so. For starters, local police could be authorized to take illegal aliens into custody for rapid deportation. Also, a barrier fence on the border with Mexico is an affordable option. Immigration is creating an ever growing Recipient Class who receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes.
Don't expect serious analysis of the topic from the Wall Street Journal. It editorializes for open borders.
Staffing for the Border Patrol has risen. But one needs to start from the position of what is necessary to accomplish a job. Going from very woefully inadequate to only moderately woefully inadequate does not result in proof that the border can not be closed.
Also, the costs to the American taxpayer from illegal aliens are many times larger what is being spent on the Border Patrol. As I've argued in the past, just the medical costs US taxpayers incur due to illegals for one year are enough to pay for a barrier to stop the flow of illegals. The problem is that without the barrier the cost of personnel to stop illegals is quite high.
Also, bear in mind that the Border Patrol does other things besides try to stop illegal aliens. For instance, it is heavily involved in narcotics interdiction. The Border Patrol also looks for bombs and other stuff terrorists might be trying to bring in. So not all the money spent on the Border Patrol is going to stop the flow of illegals.
A June 2001 report by the Dallas Federal Reserve suggests that improvements in border patrol techniques and staffing are finally raising the costs of smuggling people into the US across the border with Mexico.
We cannot directly measure changes in apprehension probability because the total number of illegal immigrants crossing the Southwest border is unknown. Instead, we can look at illegal immigrants' tendency to hire smugglers, also known as "coyotes," and the evolution of coyote prices over time. Migrants are more likely to hire coyotes when they perceive a higher chance of apprehension were they to attempt a crossing on their own. If coyotes are more in demand or if risks increase, as is the case when criminal penalties on smuggling are increased, then we expect coyote use and prices to rise.
Coyote use rates provide some evidence that despite the increasing volume of illegal immigration, migrants' costs were rising during the two earlier enforcement phases. Chart 4 plots the percentage of illegal immigrants hiring coyotes in each year. Coyote use rates increased in 1970 and trended upward for the rest of that decade. By 1979, more than 70 percent of illegal immigrants in the sample were hiring coyotes. After softening in the early 1980s, coyote use rates leveled off at a high level during the IRCA years (1986–90). New highs were then hit throughout the 1990s.
Chart 4 also shows that despite increasing coyote use rates, coyote prices were in steep decline until 1994. Median reported smugglers' fees fell from $941 in 1965 to $300 in 1994 (constant dollars), suggesting that increases in the supply of smugglers outpaced the increase in demand. Several factors contributed to the rise in smuggler supply. First, the border's improved accessibility through the building of roads and expansion of bus, rail and airway service significantly lowered transportation costs. Second, free entry into the industry by experienced migrants also increased supply. Third, the growth of the illicit drug trade during the 1980s attracted more smugglers as well.
As Chart 4 shows, not until the mid-1990s did coyote prices reverse their downward trend. This reversal coincides with the third phase of border enforcement, seemingly the most successful to date. Moreover, linewatch hours (Chart 3) and coyote use rates (Chart 4) are at record highs, and apprehensions (Chart 2) are on the rise. For the first time, widespread anecdotal evidence reveals that border crossers are being apprehended with such frequency that they turn back, giving up on their hopes of reaching the United States. There is also evidence of migrants trapped in Mexican border cities, unable to cross into the United States.
In San Diego the construction of a barrier and heavier staffing have driven down crossing attempts so far that the rate of apprehensions has reached a 28 year low. That could be repeated on the entire length of the border with Mexico. Also, greater use of UAVs and other advanced technology could greatly amplify the effectiveness of the current staff of the Border Patrol.
Here's another article that provides evidence for the idea that it is possible to stop the flow of illegals. Since 9/11 the prices charged by the smugglers who help Mexicans cross the border illegally have soared.
The increased crime is largely a result of tighter border restrictions in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials say. California and Texas are now considered too tough to penetrate, so illegal immigrants are flooding across Arizona's large, desert border. And the cost of the journey has skyrocketed from $200 to about $1,500. Immigrants are now considered as valuable as narcotics, and many kidnappers are former drug dealers.
I'm curious about what you think on a couple of related political issues:
1) The failure to really tighten border security and internal security in response to terrorist threats.
2) The failure to implement a biometrically based national identity card.
Many of the Democratic Party candidates have criticized the Bush Administration for inadequate Homeland Security funding and lack of attention to homeland defense. However, none of the major Democratic Party candidates (that I know of) are pushing a national ID card. Their recommendations for increasing border and internal security seem to be limited to increased inspections at seaports and airports and putting more guards on power plants and refineries. Are they just posturing or is this a sleeper issue that could damage the Republican Party in the general election?
Note: I'm struck by the lack of seriousness in both major political parties about the threat of domestic terrorist attacks and the related issue of illegal immigration. If a nation does not know who is authorized to live/visit within its borders AND does not effectively control entry to the nation, it is playing Russian roulette with the terrorists. How many American citizens need to die before our nation gets serious about these two issues?
1) The resistance to tightened border security is mostly driven by the factions that want lots of people coming over the border to work at jobs and live here. If some terrorists come into the US via the Mexican border and kill a lot of people then I think public attitudes would become so strident so quickly that then Washington DC would have to react and effectively control the border. As it stands now we have a gradual creeping improvement in the control of the border. If the Border Patrol continues to grow in size and continues to get more high tech devices then we will reach a tipping point where it becomes pretty hard to get in via the Mexican border. Already parts of the border are hard to cross because of barriers that have been built along those parts and that has shifted the influx to less defended parts.
2) The national ID card idea is not something that could be implemented quickly even if the government wanted to implement it. The logistics problems are formidable. But a lot of libertarians and civil libertarians oppose it on civil liberties grounds and so I think we are long way from seeing such a thing.
But I don't see a national ID card as necessary. We have de facto national ID cards via other forms of identification such as drivers licenses. What we need is to make it easy for employers to verify ID cards and social security numbers as easily as they can now verify credit cards. That could be done and it is not particularly hard to do. But all the usual suspects try to undermine attempts to do it.
The biggest problem here is that there are lots of ways that law enforcement agents and various government agencies could be empowered to track down and deport illegals where they currently are kept from doing so. Click thru to Heather Mac Donald's article on the illegal alien crime wave and read about how the cops are not allowed to arrest and deport criminals who they know are illegal aliens working in criminal gangs. The resistance of the politicians to the enforcement of basic laws lies at the root of the problem.
How many citizens will have to die: We are certainly going to find out. My guess is that eventually Al Qaeda will manage to launch another large attack in the United States and kill a lot of people. At that point public anger will become a far more powerful force than the influence of various special interests.
In the mean time, ask what you could do to convince people. Look at your email address book and ask yourself who you could send articles to about illegal immigration that would read them and think about them. I think Heather Mac Donald's article in the City Journal is a great starting point if you want to try lobbying the people you know. If you need more ideas for articles to send around then look in my Immigration, Border Control archive.
Thanks for the feedback and the great advice on ways to begin mobilizing public opinion to change these dangerous policies.
Two follow-up points:
1) Another way we can affect public debate on this issue is by insisting on the use of the factually correct terms, "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrants", to describe any foreigner who is in the US without legal permission from the US government. The increasing use of the terms, "undocumented worker" or "undocumented migrants", to describe illegal immigrants is an Orwellian attempt to remove their illegal status from public debate. The connotation is of someone who, "just forgot their documents" or has accidentally lost them, rather than someone who has knowingly committed a crime. We have to challenge this terminology whenever it is used in the media or by an individual. If we don't, the proponents of open borders and illegal immigration will set the terms of the debate.
2) I think we need an official national ID card partly because I believe the state drivers license databases are tainted with counterfeit or inaccurate data. The national credit bureau databases have the same problem. It is simply too easy to acquire a driver's license or a credit card using counterfeit documents or false personal data.
I agree that combining the state databases of driver's licenses, US social security numbers, and credit bureaus would be a good interim step. We would be amazed at the number of criminals, illegal aliens, and potential terrorists that could be identified by doing this. However, this does not solve the problem of identifying terrorists who use false IDs or legal IDs from another person. It is too easy now to alter your appearance to rely on a picture and some printed information. We need digitized biometric data that is very difficult or impossible to alter such as facial structure, fingerprints, retinal scans, DNA samples, and voiceprints.
You are correct that this kind of national ID card would be difficult to implement quickly. However, it should be relatively easy to implement over a two to four year period. Anyone who wanted a new driver's license or renewed an old one would provide biometric data as part of the process. This would then be checked against the social security database, criminal databases, terrorist databases, and INS databases. A similar process would apply to passports, school enrollment, federal and state welfare programs, other training or assistance programs, and all criminal suspects. It should be possible to cover the entire US population and all visitors/immigrants within a few years of operation.
We need better solutions to the identity theft problem. It is a very rapidly growing problem and looks set to grow much larger. Anyone who has their identity stolen has to spend literally hundreds of hours to straighten it out. That problem exists independent of the illegal alien problem. But better solutions to the identity theft problem would certainly make it easier to identify illegal aliens.
Tainted databases: they need to be made more accurate in any case. Again, the identity fraud and identity theft problems need to be tackled.
If we try to go for national ID that will be opposed. But if we try to go for reforms to stop identity theft and identity fraud then there will be a lot less resistance.
As for the term "undocumented worker": I rail against its use occasionally. Note that I use terms such as "illegal alien" which the politically correct crowd do not use. But you need to get your own message out there to friends, family, and to politicians thru email and snail mail.
Perhaps even better terms than 'illegal alien' exist: How about 'law-breaker' and 'scoff-law' ?
We are conducting a survey on amnesty for illegal immigrants in the UK and the USA for the next 6 months at http://www.skillipedia.com . We want to hear opinions from normal people - not political parties or think tanks.
You opinions or feedback are much appreciated