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Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2001 / 20 Kislev, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore -- FOR what feels like the first time, talk of tightening or even closing the borders is not the last confidence exchanged by kindred souls in a dim nook, but an actual ice-breaker at cocktail parties.

Is such frankness a sign of a new day after Sept. 11? Hard to say. It may instead be testament to the resilience of the survival instinct, even now -- even after all these years of being taught a terminal kind of tolerance. The sudden outbreak of common sense could just be the result of a fear-fueled adrenal rush that has temporarily scrambled everybody's pre-programmed responses.

Regardless of the reason, immigration policy has become topical. Used to be it wasn't mentionable, certainly not by politicians -- and woe to a body who blurted things out a la John Rocker. Of course, only a few pols are bold enough to say what's what -- including Reps. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., Virgil Goode, I-Va., possibly Elliot Engle, D-N.Y. -- but that doesn't mean the issue hasn't become urgently newsworthy.

After all, 19 foreigners just shattered our lives. Three of them carried expired visas and faded into the national woodwork. As for the other 16, it was shamefully easy for them to enter and remain in the country by the book. We now know the names of 93 of the 104 mainly Muslim Arab immigrants charged in the Sept. 11 investigation with federal crimes ranging from using fake ID to possessing phony hazmat licenses. Little wonder, as a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll discovered, 90 percent of Americans would like to see tougher limits on immigration from countries "thought to be connected to terrorists."

Also intriguing is another finding: 65 percent of Americans favor "temporarily sealing U.S. borders and stopping all immigration in the United States during the war on terrorism." There's a thought: a temporary moratorium. Such a breather would give newly minted Americans time to assimilate, while the nation could watch its pulse drop before debating a national immigration policy -- something which doesn't really exist today. Preventing American office buildings from being blown up is a vital part of immigration policy, but not its only concern. We need to apply some of that newfound, possibly short-lived frankness of ours to the still-taboo topic of non-Middle Eastern immigration and what it means for the nation -- not in economic terms, not in political terms, and not, please, in the racial terms that stop discussion cold, but rather in strictly cultural terms. What happens to a nation when massive blocs of foreign peoples enter its lifestream with little intention of assimilation?

Between 8 million and 10 million illegal aliens live in this country, mostly from Mexico. Before the attack on America, the big story was President Bush's proposal to extend amnesty to millions of Mexicans here illegally. Sept. 11 put the kibosh on that. But now the issue is back on the table. With it should come a fearless assessment of all the implications -- including the deeper entrenchment of multiculturalism, the further spread of bilingualism, and the growing Mexican activist claim to vast reaches of the American Southwest.

With Bush's concept of a "security perimeter" around North America (not just the United States) in the air, Mexican and American officials traded capital visits in November, after which Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he expected Congress to pass legislation next year that would include amnesty, or "regularization," for illegal Mexican aliens. (Even Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn got into the diplomatic act, meeting with Mexican President Vincente Fox in Mexico City where Hahn declared, "Our city is a Mexican city." He was talking about Los Angeles.)

In a development the State Department might find of interest, police in Southern California's Orange County hammered out an agreement with Mexican Consulate officials in October to accept name cards issued by the 46 Mexican consulates in this country as valid ID. That means that illegal aliens from Mexico will no longer be deported from Orange County for not possessing American-issued papers. Green cards, schmeen cards; citizenship, schmitizenship: a $27 Mexican ID card (Mexican birth certificate required) will do the trick. Just a week or so ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a resolution urging law enforcement and other local agencies to follow suit.

Even with our eyes on the borders, it's all still a blur. Maybe not even Sept. 11 will revive a belief in nationhood or a touchstone culture. Maybe a majority of us actually look forward to the multicultural, multi-lingual conglomeration of peoples that the future promises. But these are fundamentals to ponder and discuss in relative calm -- not while people, events and pulse rates are moving so quickly.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West