Sat, Mar 17, 2018 09:11 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
The amnesty mistake ... again
Guest commentary
By Rich Lowry

So much for once bitten, twice shy. The Bush White House floated an amnesty proposal for illegal immigrants in the summer of 2001, roiling its political base among conservatives and getting nowhere before the Sept. 11 attacks buried the idea. Now, the White House is back again, considering another amnesty proposal that is likely only to produce the same results.

There has never been popular backing for the current, historically high levels of immigration into the United States. But the high-immigration policy has rolled on, with the support of a political establishment eager to pander to pro-immigration special interests. Democratic candidates for president have been playing for the Hispanic vote with various amnesty proposals, and the White House now wants a piece of the action.

Bush is reportedly considering broadly endorsing a plan that would: 1) allow guest workers into the United States to take jobs advertised by the Department of Labor; 2) create a new visa for illegal workers already here to allow them to live in the United States legally for three years before starting the process of getting a green card. The guest-worker program will inevitably be abused and create more permanent immigration, while the three-year proposal is just a slow-motion amnesty for illegals. Congressional conservatives will resist the changes, likely handing Bush a defeat and a black eye with his political base in an election year. Good.

"Every guest-worker program in history has failed," says Mark Krikorian of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. "It always results in permanent immigration." This one would be no different.

An amnesty will inevitably present a security problem. The U.S. immigration system is already overwhelmed. Putting aside the reliability of Mexican documentation, who is going to do the background checks on hundreds of thousands of new immigrants coming here? During the last amnesty in 1986, there were thousands upon thousands of cases of fraud. One plotter in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing gained amnesty under the 1986 law as a farm worker. "There is no way that a new amnesty program won't give green cards to terrorists," says Krikorian. "I can guarantee it."

So what should we be doing with an illegal population that numbers at least 8 million? First, stop adding to it, which means no guest-worker program or amnesty to reward people for coming here illegally. Then, we should squeeze the illegal population, which will reduce through attrition -- mostly from voluntary returns -- if it is made harder to be an illegal alien here. Employers should be required to make better checks of the legal status of new hires, documentation should be made more fraud-proof, and agencies of the federal government should cooperate more in identifying illegal workers.

All of this is very achievable. But the political establishment, in the form of the Democratic Party and George W. Bush both, wants to go in the opposite direction. May Bush be twice bitten, and the harder the better.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.

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