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Jewish World Review
March 29, 2006
/ 29 Adar, 5766
Immigration law backlash not likely
Debra J. Saunders
Of course America needs immigrants. This is a country founded by
immigrants and made richer by the imprint of newcomers in search of a land
that rewards their hard work and determination to make a better life for
The problem is that no country certainly, no country with a
social safety net can afford to accommodate everyone who wants in. (Or as
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., put it, "We cannot be the HMO to the
world.") That's why there are immigration policies that limit the number of
people who can immigrate here legally.
The lack of an open-door policy has spawned this week's victim
class, illegal or "undocumented" immigrants, who have flouted American law
and apparently believe they should not have to pay the consequences of that
choice. Hence Sunday's huge demonstration in Los Angeles, where activists
carried signs that called for "Amnistia, Full Rights for All Immigrants."
The Los Angeles Times duly reported, "Some Republicans fear that
pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as
with Proposition 187 (the 1994 ballot measure that sought to deny benefits
for illegal immigrants that) helped spur record numbers of California
Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters
subsequently helped Democrats regain political control in the state."
Call that the Backlash Myth. In fact, Prop. 187 passed with 59
percent of the vote, and GOP Gov. Pete Wilson, who championed the measure,
was re-elected in 1994. In 2003, when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed a
bill that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, he so
enraged voters that he sealed his political demise. After Davis was recalled
from office, the heavily Democratic California Legislature repealed the
That's your backlash.
Don't blame racism. While some in the media may think all
Latinos vote alike, the Los Angeles Times poll found that 38 percent of
Latino voters in California strongly opposed giving driver's licenses to
If there is a backlash, it probably will be against the
demonstrators. Even before students began blocking the Los Angeles streets
to protest legislation in Congress to toughen penalties for illegal
immigrants and smugglers, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration
Studies told me over the telephone, "I hope they keep doing it. It just
makes it less and less likely the Senate's going to pass any amnesty."
A bill passed by the House would make it a felony for illegal
immigrants to stay in the United States. Jeff Lungren of the House Judiciary
Committee explained that, while it is a crime to cross the border illegally,
staying here after sneaking in or after your visa expires has been only a
civil offense. The House wanted to make it an actual crime.
When members of Congress complained that a felony was too harsh,
House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner put forward an
amendment in December to reduce the proposed penalty to a misdemeanor.
This shows what a setup the felony issue was: Only eight Dems
voted to reduce the penalty, and the amendment failed by a 257-164 vote.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., announced that she opposed the misdemeanor
amendment because: "In one stroke, it would subject the entire undocumented
population, estimated by some to be 11 million people, to criminal
liability." So the Dems stuck with the felony language.
Rohrabacher stresses that 90 percent of illegal immigrants if
not more are "wonderful human beings." He notes that no one expects the
government to deport all 11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants in
The answer is for Washington to toughen enforcement, penalize
employers who hired undocumented workers and make border crossing more
costly. Then fewer people will move illegally to America.
Instead, on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill
with a guest-worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for
citizenship. Big mistake. If Washington passes an immigration bill that
grants citizenship to illegal immigrants and includes a phony temporary
guest-worker program phony, because there is no way the government can or
would remove workers after six years, as one scheme promises then the
deception will be official. The message Washington will send will resound
louder than ever: Forget immigration laws. Legal, illegal, no dif.
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