Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2003/ 17 Kislev, 5764
Blowing some smoke at the border
Franklin Delano Roosevelt once
infuriated the Daughters of the
American Revolution, meeting in
convention assembled at Constitution
Hall, by addressing them, accurately, as
"my fellow immigrants."
Ronald Reagan made a telling point
with his observation that, alone among
the nations, immigrants to America
become as natives of the realm, with all
the rights and privileges pertaining
thereunto, the instant they take the
oath of allegiance as new citizens. From
that moment forward they're as
American as any Bush of Connecticut
or Pinckney of South Carolina (or
Pruden of Arkansas). You can't say
that about a newly naturalized citizen of
France, Germany, or even Britain. Such
sentiment, as warm and comforting as
a chocolate pie just out of the oven,
does not compute anywhere but here.
Immigration is the life's blood of the
nation, the source of the vitality and
industry that is the envy of the world
(particularly that older part of the world
preoccupied with its mouldy cheeses
and suspicious sausages). We forget
that at our peril.
Nevertheless, we need more than a
resort to squishy sentiment when we
consider how uncontrolled and unfair
immigration threatens to erode many of
the attractions and opportunities that
draw immigrants to America in the first
place. Those who want to reform the
immigration laws are no less
compassionate, no less welcoming,
than those who want no immigration
control at all.
Tom Ridge, the secretary of
homeland security, suggested in a
speech in Miami early this week that the
remedy for the wave of uncontrolled
and illegal immigration that threatens to
swamp the government's ability to
regulate it is to "legalize" the 8 million,
or 10 million, or 12 million (nobody has
any idea of how many of them there
are) illegal aliens now plucking chickens,
bussing tables and minding gringo
babies in the United States.
"The government," Mr. Ridge says, "has to come to grips
with the presence of 8 [million] to 12 million illegals and afford
them some kind of legal status in some way, but also as a
country decide what our immigration policy is and then
"I'm not saying make them citizens, because they violated
the law to get here. So you don't reward that type of conduct
by turning over a citizenship certificate. You determine how
you can legalize their presence, then, as a country, you make
a decision that from this day forward this is a process of
entry, and if you violate that process of entry we have the
resources to cope with it."
Such nonsensical argle-bargle could not have come out of
the mouth of a Cabinet secretary unless it was decreed from
the highest levels of government higher, in fact, than the
level where mere presidents live. It must have come from the
"political shop." Indeed, upon inquiry from startled reporters,
a White House spokeswoman took pains not to dispute the
message and retreated into campaign-mode goo-goo. "The
president believes America should be a welcoming country, a
welcoming society," she said. "We're a nation of immigrants."
Mr. Ridge is blowing smoke, perhaps supplied by the White
House political shop, with his bland assurance that once the 8
to 12 million illegals get a free pass there won't be any mercy
for those who sneak in afterward. Such amnesties only beget
further abuse by more illegals, who calculate, rightly, that
further amnesties will surely follow.
President Bush promised, in the border Spanglish he slips
into in the campaign season, to grant permanent residence to
millions of illegal aliens in the days just before September 11.
But in the weeks that followed, when the scope and
implications of the scandal on the nation's borders began to
come clear, he thought better of it, and in plain English.
To grant special treatment to those breaking the law is
grossly unfair to those who are foolish enough to obey the
law, who get in line and go by the rules. What Mr. Ridge, and
perhaps the administration, proposes is nothing short of
declaring open season on the borders. Granting citizenship to
the world, amnesty by amnesty, may make some of us feel
good, but it is foolish, dishonest and irresponsible. If we
don't respect our borders, no one else will. The president,
and not his "political shop," owes Mr. Ridge a tutorial in civics.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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