President Bush's first act to kick off 2004 back in January was to unveil an immigration reform plan that was nothing more than a massive amnesty for illegal aliens. Mr. Bush's purpose was to impress the nation's growing Hispanic vote with how simpatico he is and to give them a good reason to vote for him. Polls show that by and large they won't, but in the meantime a good many other Hispanics have voted with their feet.
An internal report of the U.S. Border Patrol, disclosed last week by the Washington Times, shows that nearly 35 percent of the illegal aliens nabbed in the three weeks after Mr. Bush's plan was announced came here because of the amnesty it offered. Even though the plan went nowhere, it still had an impact—to increase illegal immigration. [Illegals acted on rumors of amnesty, by Jerry Seper, August 2, 2004]
The plan was dead on arrival in Congress because even his own party realized it would be political suicide to support it, at least in an election year. Nevertheless, the election will be over soon enough, and those who persuaded Mr. Bush to float the plan will have their chance to dredge it up again. Assuming Mr. Bush is still president, we may hear more of amnesty before he leaves the White House.
That's one reason it's important to know the effect amnesty proposals will have on immigration even before they are passed, and that's what the Border Patrol report shows.
The report is based on questionnaires given to field agents for random interviews with illegal aliens captured trying to enter the country. The study was abandoned in late January because press reports about it compromised its reliability. But what it found in the 19 days it was conducted is enough to discredit the amnesty concept, whether Mr. Bush's or someone else's.
In the first place, the announcement of the president's plan, ostensibly intended to control illegal immigration, actually helped swell the hordes of aliens who try to get across the borders.
The Border Patrol reports that more than 66,000 aliens were seized along the Mexican border between the announcement of the president's plan on Jan. 7 and the termination of the study on Jan. 26. That's an 11 percent increase over the number of apprehensions in January the year before.
Second, as the Times reported, "1,000 of 2,881 foreign nationals interviewed by agents after their capture at the U.S.-Mexico border between Jan. 7 and Jan. 26 acknowledged that rumors of an amnesty program—outlined in Mexican press reports and passed on by relatives—had influenced their decision to try to enter the United States illegally." In other words, nearly 35 percent of the captured illegals acknowledged they were drawn to come to this country because of Mr. Bush's amnesty proposals.
The Border Patrol report is part of a study conducted for a Senate committee, according tot the Times story, but another report, from the National Border Patrol Council, which represents the agency's non-supervisory agents, reached similar conclusions about the San Diego region. There, the Times reports, the Council found that "apprehension totals increased threefold … adding that the majority of aliens detained along the border in January told arresting agents that they had come to the United States seeking amnesty." Most of those arrested had no previous history of immigration violations, suggesting that they came here solely because of the chance for amnesty.
So, if the president's amnesty plan isn't helping him with Hispanic voters (recent polls show that Democratic nominee John Kerry enjoys a 2 to 1 advantage over Mr. Bush among Hispanics) and if it actually made the illegal immigration crisis worse by attracting even more illegal aliens into the country, what were the pushers of the amnesty plan thinking?
What they were thinking were the tissue of clichés, misconceptions, and unexamined assumptions that make up the intellectual arsenal of the Open Borders Lobby. Among these blunders are the beliefs that Hispanic voters care more about immigration than other issues (polls also show that's not true), that promising amnesty would not attract more illegals and that the Democrats would be out-foxed by Mr. Bush's stealing their issue (They weren't; they merely denounced the plan for not going far enough and demanded total amnesty, which Mr. Kerry has promised if elected).
The only commendable feature of the Bush amnesty plan is that it shows some willingness to deal with the immigration crisis at all—which is more than any other Republican president has done in recent memory. Mr. Bush may or may not make it back into the White House this year, but if he does, he needs to scrap the stupid plan from last January and come up with a new proposal that will halt immigration and send the aliens who are here back where they belong.
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Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website. Click here to order his monograph, Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future. His review essay on Who Are We appears in the current issue of Chronicles Magazine.