It is interesting to see the furious energy displayed by the Bush administration and Congress to tighten immigration. None other than Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is leading a drive to give closer scrutiny to the intake process. Everybody is worried about immigration now.
The reason, of course, is the tragedy of Sept. 11. Some of the 19 terrorists who participated in the suicide hijackings that killed almost 5,000 entered the United States legally or were staying here on expired visas. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has acknowledged that more than 250,000 illegal immigrants it ordered deported remain in the United States!
The anti-terrorism bill forces the attorney general to hold illegal immigrants suspected of terrorism investigation for seven days while the government seeks to establish grounds for action. There are civil liberties complaints, but even Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), the most liberal member of the Senate, acknowledges that immigration must be severely curtailed in the name of security. It wasn't long ago that Bush was negotiating with Mexican President Vicente Fox to liberalize immigration laws to allow Mexican illegal immigrants to gain legal status. Now it appears the goal is to tighten immigration all around.
Where have these guardians of internal security been before now? Peter Brimelow, an immigrant himself, in Alien Nation: Common Sense about America's Immigration Disaster (Random House, 1995), alleged that ''our nation is being engulfed by the greatest wave of immigration it has ever faced.'' Brimelow, a former British subject, charged ''these newcomers are less educated, less skilled, prone to trouble with the law, less inclined to share American culture and values, and altogether less likely to become American in name or spirit.'' He was called a bigot, but he won an eloquent defender in Eugene McCarthy, no conservative he. Comparing Brimelow to an earlier immigrant, Tom Paine, McCarthy said, ''As Paine gave us Common Sense on declaring our independence, so Brimelow provides us with much common sense in declaring our independence from the mounting migration pressures coming to bear on our nation.''
The fact is, all-but-unchecked immigration has been carried on by Democrats and Republicans for years with a wink and a nod. The Republican Party, often too observant to the needs of industry, has welcomed a flood of unskilled laborers who will work cheap—no matter how they are exploited. The Democratic Party has seen the tide of unskilled laborers as a great boon their party. David Schippers, the Chicago lawyer who prosecuted President Bill Clinton's impeachment, in his book Sell Out: The Inside Story of President Clinton's Impeachment (Regnery, 2000), tells of the blatant politicalization of the INS during the 1996 ''Citizenship USA'' program. ''To ensure maximum impact, the INS concentrated on aliens in key states—California, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Texas—that hold a combined 181 electoral votes, just 89 short of the total to win an election,'' he wrote.
Schippers' book detailed wholesale immigration fraud. ''Our sources inside the INS revealed that in preparation for the 2000 elections, INS agents in the district offices were directed to relax the testing for English, complete every interview within 20 minutes and ensure that all applicants pass the civics test by continuing to ask questions until an applicant got a sufficient number right. Sometimes it was necessary to ask 20 or 25 questions before four or five were answered correctly,'' he wrote.
This has not just allowed unqualified people to enter the nation, it possibly compromised U.S. security. These tactics demean the citizenship of ordinary individuals with much to contribute who enter our country the right way.
The war waged against our nation demands a total re-examination of our immigration policies. The question must be asked: Do we want individuals to enter our country because they truly want to be Americans—or those who want to be foreign citizens in exile and even worse?
November 4, 2001