What Everyone Should Know About Illegal Immigration

Let me tell you a story that, at first glance, might seem like it has nothing to do with illegal immigration. Actually, it has everything to do with it.

When I was a high school junior in the late 1970s, I had a very difficult, required American history course. The midterm counted for half the final grade. Students took the exam on an honor system. You were supposed to pick it up in the library, work on it alone within the allotted time, and return the completed test to the librarian. Students were told not to discuss the questions with anyone.

As you’ve probably surmised, the honor system wasn’t honored very much. Of the seventy-five students who took the midterm, only five didn’t cheat. The instructor began his next lecture with a 10-minute, profanity-laced tirade, at the end of which he declared the test void and said that a much tougher exam would be administered in class next week.

I was among the few students who were honest. Nearly thirty years later, I can vividly remember a short, very attractive, dark-haired girl identifying me to a bunch of her friends as if I were a criminal. “He didn’t!” she declared, referring to my failure to cheat, pointing me out with an accusatory index finger reminiscent of a kangaroo judge readying a defendant for the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Things haven’t changed much in thirty years. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. Recent studies show that about 75 percent of high school students lie on a regular basis. Many of their elders are no less mendacious. Celebrated athletes routinely lie about their use of performance-enhancing drugs, and a President of the United States has made false statements to a grand jury, which, to this day, he defiantly wears as a “badge of honor.” And truth tellers are frequently vilified.

In large measure, modern ethics-if you can call it that-stands on its head. Wrong is right, and good is bad. So it goes with illegal immigration.

But the problem of illegal immigration in the United States is far more serious than kids cheating on a test, or even a head of state dissembling on the witness stand. Illegal immigration poses a mortal threat to America.

There are an estimated 12 to 15 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. While Congress is paralyzed on this issue, the problem will only get worse.

Illegal immigration is the ultimate dishonesty. Violating America’s sovereignty, illegally employed, and illegally reaping a host of other economic benefits, the illegal immigrant lies abundantly 24/7.

Last May, there were massive demonstrations around the U.S. vigorously supporting the “right” of illegal aliens to engage in such behavior. It’s old Orwellian doublespeak applied to a new issue. The illegal immigration constituency ardently believes wrong is right, and bad is good. And politicians are only too happy to pander to them.

After a successful “test vote” on an immigration reform bill, about 30 U.S. senators shamefully preened in front of television cameras, elbowing each other for face time. The proposed legislation provided a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens who have been here for two to five-plus years, rewarding their misdeeds. The bill has been stalled in the House, which is opposed to any such plan because it amounts to amnesty.

By insisting on “comprehensive” a.k.a. “path to citizenship” reform, President George W. Bush’s plan is similar in many ways to the Senate bill. Although he gives lip service to opposing amnesty, Bush’s plan involves granting citizenship to illegal aliens who pay a fine, learn English, pay back taxes, and remain employed for a certain number of years.

There are several practical problems with this approach.

First, how would the amount of the fine be determined? Based on the length of time the illegal alien has been in the U.S.? How would that be determined? The people involved here live in a shadow economy in sheltered enclaves where phony documentation is readily available. There is no reliable way to tell when they entered the country.

The comprehensive approach would treat people that have been in the U.S. longest with the greatest leniency, presumably because they have been working in this country, raising families, and contributing to the economy for the greatest amount of time. But is this really fair? These illegal aliens have been violating America’s laws longest, which would argue for the heaviest, not the lightest, penalty.

Second, how would the amount of back taxes be calculated? How would length of employment be determined? Many of these people have worked off the books, either partially or entirely. Employers complicit in such illegal schemes would be reluctant to open their records to Federal investigators.

Thirdly, there is support among both Republicans and Democrats for levying heavy fines against employers of illegal aliens. Should there be amnesty for employers? How would that work?

Fourthly, under the Senate proposal and Mr. Bush’s plan, illegal aliens applying for citizenship would have to get “in the back of the line”, behind legal aliens. How would that be determined? Should there be separate lines for illegal aliens and legal aliens? Would it be fair to have a person who has squatted in the U.S. for 30 years to be given priority over a later-arriving legal immigrant?

Despite its problems, there are many laudable aspects to the President’s proposal to combat illegal immigration. He would have temporary guest workers come to the U.S. for a time certain, after which they would return home. These workers would pay taxes, be subject to criminal background checks, have tamper-proof identification cards, and be electronically verified as legally available for work by prospective employers.

The President has also strengthened border security by increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from 9,000 to 12,000, and he plans to increase that number to 18,000 by 2008. Mr. Bush is in favor of high-tech fences, motion sensors, and other cutting-edge methods to supplement boots on the ground to prevent illegal border crossings. These are all good ideas.

His use of the National Guard, however, is weak. During his nationally televised address on May 15, 2006, President Bush announced that 6,000 National Guard troops would be temporarily deployed to the Mexican border, the source of approximately 75 percent of illegal immigration. Most military experts say that about three times that number is needed to effectively police the border. Moreover, this meager force of 6,000 will only support the overtaxed Border Patrol and not directly engage in law enforcement. And what happens when the troops go home?

Read President Bush’s proposal and judge for yourself. It can be found online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/immigration.

A major argument of illegal immigrant defenders, among them, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is that it is impossible to deport millions of people, and that without illegal immigrant labor, the U.S. economy would collapse.

Absolute nonsense. Saying that no attempt should be made to deport illegal immigrants because there are too many of them is like saying that we shouldn’t prosecute crimes because there are too many criminals, or that we shouldn’t bring civil lawsuits because there are too many tortfeasors. If America could survive a civil war, two world wars, and a Great Depression, it can survive without illegal immigration.

Nobody is proposing rounding up 12-million-plus people. But fines and jail sentences, both for border jumpers and employers who knowingly hire them, would go a long way to discourage future illegal immigration. In addition, such measures would encourage illegal immigrants who are here to return home.

An interesting May 26, 2006 New York Times piece detailed the history of undocumented workers in 20th century America. According to the article, the U.S. repeatedly opened and shut its doors to illegal immigration, depending on the need for cheap labor.

Although this practice was reprehensible, the piece misses the mark. The issue is not what America has done in the past; the question is, what can it do now?

Illegal immigration may not be completely eradicable, but with the right mix of carrots and sticks, you can get pretty damned close. The Times article points out that in 1954, President Eisenhower deported a million illegal immigrants through farm raids and summary proceedings while supplying agricultural employers with 400,000 temporary foreign workers per year through the “braceros” program. Illegal immigration plummeted. The braceros program is similar to today’s proposed guest worker program.

One of the tactics used by supporters of illegal immigration is to confuse the issue by failing to distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants. No mainstream person today is against legal immigration. Legal immigration is what made-and continues to make-America great. Diversity has always enriched American culture and society. Legal immigrants to America in the last century included Bob Hope, Albert Einstein, Al Jolson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gloria Estefan, and Placido Domingo.

It is dishonest to suggest an equivalency between legal and illegal immigrants. There is none.

Another argument in favor of illegal immigration is that illegal immigrants do work that Americans won’t. This is utter nonsense and insulting to citizens, both natural born and naturalized. There are plenty of high school students, college students on break, and high school graduates that have no problem with manual labor.

My maternal grandfather worked in Depression-era Manhattan as a jeweler by day and cleaned the soot out of boiler rooms at night. My father, who had some college before World War II, worked as an assistant to a busboy in the Catskill Mountains shortly after being discharged from the Air Corps in 1945. Several years ago, I worked in a Christmas store in Rockefeller Center for extra cash. My duties included transporting large items and hauling garbage.

If someone needs money, that person will do almost anything if the price is right. Unfortunately, there is evidence that the illegal immigrant population depresses wages by up to eight percent in the industries in which it is employed. That’s not surprising. Employers are under no obligation to pay a fair or even minimum wage to people that are not supposed to be here.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants in order to compete in the marketplace. If the only way they can compete is to cheat, they need a new business plan that’s legal. If they can’t formulate one, they shouldn’t be operating.

In 1986, when President Reagan declared an amnesty, there were about 3 million illegal aliens in the U.S. Now there are over 12 million. The increase exceeds the number of legal immigrants that entered New York State between 1855 and 1890. According to National Park Service information cited on Ellis Island.org’s website, about 8 million immigrants arrived at Castle Garden in New York City’s Battery, then the nation’s premiere immigration hub, during that thirty-five year period.

Ellis Island didn’t start processing immigrants until 1892. According to the Park Service, about 12 million legal immigrants passed through Ellis Island’s doors between 1892 and 1954. Thus, the number of illegal immigrants now in this country is equal to, if not greater than, the number of legal immigrants who came to the U.S. during the greatest mass migration in American history.

Defenders of illegal immigrants say that the overwhelming majority are hard working and obey the law. I have no reason to doubt that they work hard. Most have little education and, therefore, work physically demanding jobs.

Except for breaking the law in coming to the U.S., most illegal aliens are honest, according to their apologists. But just how honest are they? Many work off the books, evading taxes, a serious Federal offense. Those that do pay taxes do so through use of phony Social Security cards, easily available through a burgeoning bogus document industry that flourishes both online and in illegal immigrant communities throughout the United States.

God only knows why possessing a phony Social Security Card is only a minor offense instead of a crime punishable by hard time. A Social Security Number (SSN) is a master key to a whole host of benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, and public assistance. Some states even allow illegal aliens to have driver’s licenses, another reward for bad behavior. Once you’ve got an SSN, it’s easy for an illegal alien to construct an identity that gives the impression that he or she is an American citizen.

On January 6, 2004, PBS NewsHour reported that Mexico’s consulates had distributed over 1.5 million laminated identification cards, also known as “matricula consulars” or “matriculas,” during the two previous years. The Mexican Government was issuing about 500 a day in its Los Angeles consulate alone. According to the NewsHour, the cards are rapidly gaining acceptance as legitimate identification throughout the public and private sectors of the U.S.

Matricula consulars allow illegal immigrants to open American bank accounts. Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth largest financial services company, has opened over 250,000 accounts using the matricula consular. Fifth Third Bank, headquartered in Ohio, is also pushing the matricula, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) in an important October 2002 paper. The CIS has reported that the Mexican government lobbies U.S. state and local governments and banks to accept the matricula as identification for illegal aliens.

The matricula, according to the NewsHour, is also used by illegal immigrants to transfer money they earn in the U.S. back to their native countries. Immigrants from Latin America sent about $30 billion dollars south of the border in 2003.

The same broadcast also reported that 13 states accept the matricula for driver’s license applications. And about 1,000 U.S. municipalities accept these identification cards, among them, Santa Ana, California. In Santa Ana, any resident with a matricula can open a bank account, get a library card, pay electric bills, and report a crime, making the illegal immigrant almost indistinguishable from an American citizen.

The CIS paper says that the IRS issues Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) to millions of illegal aliens without adequately checking for terrorists, criminals, and people under deportation. According to the CIS, the IRS began issuing ITINs in 1996 to resolve compliance issues with nonresident alien investment income. The IRS then began issuing ITINs to resident aliens, including illegal immigrants, who use them to file income tax returns.

Proponents of illegal immigration say that illegal immigrants pay income taxes and thus help the American economy. But the CIS points out that most illegal aliens pay little or no taxes because of their low earnings. Taxes involuntarily withheld from paychecks of low wage earners are mostly or fully refunded.

According to the CIS, illegal aliens filing income tax returns with ITINs are eligible for the same tax breaks as legal resident aliens. Illegal alien filers are entitled to spousal exemptions, and education and child care credits. They are not, however, eligible for the Earned Income Credit (EIC), a subsidy for the working poor. But many illegal aliens receive the EIC anyway.

In addition, according to the CIS, millions of illegal immigrants have illegally obtained Social Security Numbers. Bogus SSNs are obtained by making them up, borrowing someone else’s, buying a counterfeit Social Security Card, or fraudulently using a valid one.

The CIS reports that the Social Security Administration cannot fine employees who use fraudulent SSNs or employers who knowingly submit them. That’s the IRS’s job. However, audits show that the IRS rarely fines anyone using a bogus SSN.

The IRS, by refusing to share Social Security fraud information with immigration authorities, has actively shielded illegal immigrants from law enforcement, according to the CIS. The jury is still out on whether the Patriot Act, which mandates better communication amongst government agencies, has changed anything.

The CIS paper notes that 18 of the 19 September 11 hijackers had either state-issued or bogus driver’s licenses or identification cards, and all of them had SSNs.

This is absolute madness. Civilizations have vanished as a result of such policies. A major factor in the demise of the Roman Empire was that, in its later years, it became virtually impossible to tell citizens from non-citizens. We seem to be heading down the same path.

Proponents of the matricula say that it helps illegal immigrants aid law enforcement. But police departments around the country are divided on the issue. Some say the matricula is an effective crime fighting tool; others say it’s useless.

During the NewsHour broadcast, Mexican Consul General Martha Lara said that American acceptance of the matricula is a human right. Amazing. Since when are people who have no right to be in the United States automatically entitled to American bank accounts, library cards, and driver’s licenses? Many people who are here legally can’t get those things.

The NewsHour also reported that the Department of Justice and the FBI have said that the matricula can be misused by terrorists and criminals because it can be easily counterfeited. However, the Treasury and State Departments approve of the cards.

I’ll go with law enforcement. I’d rather be safe than reward bad behavior because of some perceived economic or political benefit.

True, the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants are not dangerous criminals. They’ve come to America in search of a better life, a laudable goal. But broken or not, our immigration system is the only bulwark against an anarchic flow of people through our borders. A dysfunctional immigration system is better than no system at all. Opening American borders to every person on the planet is not an option.

There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Even if only one percent are dangerous criminals, that’s a problem of staggering proportions. One-hundred-and-twenty thousand violent felons illegally in the U.S. isn’t a law enforcement problem; it’s an invasion.

And it certainly shouldn’t be a partisan issue. On August 18, 2005, the PBS NewsHour reported that Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, both Democrats, declared a state of emergency on their respective borders as a result of illegal immigration. They had good reason: border towns in Arizona and New Mexico have become a bazaar of gang violence, drug smuggling, and human trafficking emanating from Mexico. In an August 13, 2005 interview on CNN, Richardson, the nation’s only Hispanic governor, said that the federal response was inadequate.

Why the hell hasn’t President Bush declared a national emergency? According to the NewsHour, federal agents arrested over 500,000 illegal border crossers in two sections of Arizona alone over a 10-month period.

In her book, Invasion (Washington: Regnery 2002), Michelle Malkin details how illegal immigrant Angel Resendiz repeatedly crossed the Mexican border to commit mass murder in railroad yards in the American Southwest. The New York Post recently reported on the horrific murder of 26-year-old Carolina Perez in a Queens bar by her ex-boyfriend Louis Vallejo, a 38-year-old illegal alien who snuck back into the U.S. after being deported. In a 2005 paper, the CIS reported that two-thirds of all known terrorists operating in the United States between the early 1990s and 2004 violated immigration laws, often multiple times.

The New York Times reported on August 19, 2006 that an illegal immigrant, Elvira Arellano, was holed up in a Chicago church to avoid deportation. According to the Times, Ms. Arellano was deported in 1997 but returned to the U.S., where she had a son, who, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, is a U.S. citizen. In 2002 she was arrested at her job, which she procured by using a phony SSN. Private bills introduced in Congress to address her son’s medical needs have stalled. So far, authorities have declined to remove her from the church.

What are they waiting for? This is 21st century America, not medieval England or 18th century France, where a religious government was in power. There is no right of church sanctuary in the present-day United States. If Ms. Arellano wins this battle, every illegal immigrant facing deportation will be emboldened to follow her example.

I’m sorry that Ms. Arellano’s boy is ill, but curing him should not be the responsibility of the United States Government. Unfortunately, this is a very effective tactic used by many illegal aliens: jump the border, have children in the U.S., and then scream about their families being broken up when they are told to leave.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United StatesâÂ?¦ are citizens of the United States.” Passed shortly after the Civil War, it was an anti-slavery amendment designed to ensure that African Americans would be considered legal American citizens rather than property, as they were in the antebellum South.

The post-Civil-War Congress did not foresee the Fourteenth Amendment’s being perverted into a shield for illegal immigrants. The only remedy for this situation is a Constitutional amendment, and the chances of that happening are about the same as that of Al Sharpton’s becoming a Republican.

Malkin wrote a chilling column, published in The New York Post on May 3, 2006, detailing a series of interviews and mass demonstrations broadcast throughout the U.S. in favor of illegal immigration. It seems that many of these folks want to re-fight the Mexican War of 1845-47 and “reclaim” large parts of the Southwest for Mexico.

Pat Buchanan would impose a moratorium on all immigration, legal and otherwise. This would be unwise and politically impossible, and a retrogression to the bigoted, paranoid days of the 1920s Red Scare, which coincided with the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The promise of Lady Liberty, with burning torch and outstretched arm, would be hollow indeed if America completely shut its doors to immigrants.

Despite Ms. Malkin’s arguments to the contrary, the kooks who think they’re fighting a second Mexican War are a fringe movement. I’d be worried if mainstream politicians were supporting them.

However, fringe movements should be watched because sometimes they mushroom into serious threats. In the 1920s, a little-known kook named Adolf Hitler orchestrated anti-Government riots in German beer halls. We all know how that turned out.

Illegal immigration proponents say that because most illegal immigrants are Mexican, it is racist to take action against them. That is beyond ridiculous. If illegal immigrants were pouring in from Europe, the situation would be no different. America needs to secure its borders, regardless of where illegal immigrants come from.

It’s a hard life living in the shadows of ethnic enclaves, doing backbreaking work in constant fear of deportation. Under these conditions, assimilation is impossible. Therefore, we need to reform of our immigration laws. Reducing wait times, paperwork, and fees are all good ideas. Besides securing our borders, the main goal of any reform should be to encourage legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration.

While Congress remains paralyzed, some towns are passing legislation to deter illegal immigration. Time Magazine has reported that Hazelton, Pennsylvania, a coal town of 31,000, recently enacted the toughest illegal immigration law in America. It fines employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and landlords who knowingly rent to them. According to Time, the San Diego suburb of Vista, California has enacted similar legislation. Avon Park, Florida and Kennewick, Washington are planning similar bills.

Up until the mid-nineteenth century, there were few immigration laws. Immigrants were easily absorbed. America was young and needed people. All that changed during the first wave of mass migration in the 1850s, which was followed by an even bigger mass migration in the 1890s. America’s infancy was over, and millions were crossing our borders. Rules were needed to regulate this massive inflow of people. Rules and regulations require paperwork and bureaucracy.

Ever since America lost its baby teeth well over a century ago, obtaining American citizenship has not been easy for immigrants. Nor should it be. No nation on Earth has ever had completely open borders, nor could any survive under such a policy. In the modern world, citizenship is not an automatic right. It is a hard-earned privilege.

Some illegal immigrants complain that they cannot become citizens because the procedure is too onerous. But it hasn’t been easy for over a hundred years. My grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe around 1920. It took him nearly 10 years to become an American citizen, a process that included mountains of paperwork and burdensome fees.

Even with effective reform, the path to American citizenship will always be difficult for immigrants, as it should be. If it were easy, citizenship would have no meaning.

Illegal immigration is an existential threat to America because, uncontrolled, it will become impossible to tell the difference between citizens and non-citizens. The sad truth is that without a clear definition of citizenship, there can be no American sovereignty. And without American sovereignty, there can be no United States of America.

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