by Francis Pennyworth, Jr.
I supported Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program which was supposed to manage our borders, and control the massive influx of illegal aliens. Not only did the program fail, it’s holy grail of “amnesty” became a powerful magnet drawing people into the warm glow of its promise. And now, we are once again faced with the same vexing problems.
The only exception is that today’s narrative is different than that of 1986. Now when I hear the pundits talk about “immigration reform” an unpleasant allegory immediately comes to mind.
It goes something like this. Let’s suppose you have a wonderful solid gold Rolex watch. The type of watch that’s priceless; a thing to covet – so valuable as to be beyond the reach of five out of six people on the face of the earth. Then, one night while you’re sleeping I slip into your home, tip toe into your bedroom and take the watch while a few feet away you lie happily asleep.
A few years later we cross paths and you recognize your watch which I’m wearing on my left wrist. You immediately demand the return of your Rolex. At this point, most of us would agree your reaction is quite reasonable.
Unfortunately I see things differently than you, and I’m not about to return your watch.
Filled with righteous indignation I lecture you on the reasonableness of my theft. After all, I couldn’t ever afford a Rolex and I was only trying to improve my life. How can you fault me for that? Why in heaven’s name would you try to keep someone from improving themselves? Don’t you have any compassion for your fellow human being?
Think about it. I took the watch years ago, and I’ve grown used to wearing a Rolex. It’s part of me now – the only life I know. In fact, I’ve worn it so long I now speak Rolex, as do my wife and children. The Rolex helped me get a job and become a productive citizen. You can’t penalize me for improving my life. Can you? Besides, somewhere back in your family history someone stole something that helped get you here. In the final analysis we’re all thieves aren’t we? That makes it all good, doesn’t it? I mean if everyone does it, it can’t be bad.
Then as you begin to shake your head in disagreement I jam my finger into your chest, lean in close to your face and in a low accusatory tone say, “You’re a racist aren’t you? Because if you weren’t a racist you’d let me steal your watch. Oh, and by the way. It’s not theft, it’s just a transfer of ownership!” Obviously offended, I start to walk away then struck by a revelation, I stop in mid-stride, spin around angrily, point to the Rolex and shout, “And! By the Way, the transfer wasn’t illegal, it was just undocumented!”
Sound strangely familiar? Of course it does. We hear the drum beat of this strange make-weight logic on a daily basis. The repetition doesn’t validate the argument, and the careful manipulation of the words used to describe the situation can never change the facts. If you aren’t here legally, you’re here illegally. If you’re a citizen of another country then vis a vis the United States you’re an alien. Hence the descriptor, “illegal alien.” It isn’t a pejorative, it’s a fact. The slight of hand embodied in the phrase “undocumented immigrant” doesn’t even remotely take us in the direction of a viable solution. And, quite frankly, I find the deception offensive and so should you. Why? Because it infers that we are too stupid to know the difference.
Of course, if you’re an ideologue chained to a private agenda, you were calling me a racist by the end of the second paragraph, and I’ve lost you. If, on the other hand, you’re a compassionate person who feels torn between sympathy for the human condition and concern for your country then maybe this article will at least help bring the issues into focus.
The problem I’m seeing is that the damage caused by our porous borders isn’t limited to just the theft of the benefits of American citizenship. The damage is much more insidious than that. For example, you may not realize it, but Emergency Rooms are required by Federal law to treat all patients who need critical care. And an ER is absolutely required to provide this critical care treatment even if the patient is unable to pay. Legal status may not be considered when deciding whether or not to treat, and if you were an illegal alien who required immediate care where would you go? Obviously you would go to an ER where they couldn’t turn you away. That is exactly what has happened (in a very big way). According to the CDC, between 1990 and 2006 the number of ER visits rose from 90.3 million to 119.2 million per year. That’s about 20 million new people who seem to have just popped out of the woodwork. Not a small number to be sure.
The effect of this people tsunami is that virtually one out of every four ERs in the United States was driven out of business between 1990 and 2007. By 2009 another 27% had gone out of business.
It gets worse. When an ER closes the people it served don’t just go away. They go to another ER triggering a domino effect of closures. The sad thing is that the poor are the most directly impacted. By not controlling the flow of illegal aliens we are placing American citizens in a position where critical care is becoming hard to find. This is just one of a large number of unintended consequences to our failure to control and organize our borders.
The much vaunted Obama Care program will do nothing to correct the ER problem. While it’s proponents swear the system won’t be swallowed up by the illegal alien population, there seems to no citizenship requirement in the required qualifications. How large might that problem be? Well the illegal alien population has been estimated, on the low side, to be in the neighborhood of 11.2 million people (some say 20 million) not counting their children, who may or may not have been born in the United States.
As constituted, Obama Care will force the existing medical system to handle the currently insured citizens, plus another 20 million currently uninsured Americans, plus another potential 11 million illegal aliens all at the same or lower cost, without adding a single new hospital or doing anything to increase the number of doctors and/or nurses. Good luck with that. If that doesn’t make you want to stop and take a deep breath nothing will. But then according to Ms. Pelosi we had to pass the bill in order to know what was in it.
Oh, and how about the good old public school system? Unless you live in a sound proof bunker you will know that our public grade school system is completely free. And, you don’t have to prove you are an American citizen to go to school here. All you have to do is be a kid and show up for class. I’d say that was pretty neat. Especially if you come from a country where a sizable number of people still live on dirt floors.
Without getting sucked into a discussion of the quality of our public schools, let’s go straight to the bottom line. Our public schools are paid for by property taxes. Property taxes are paid by property owners. Far more people rent than own, and renters don’t pay property taxes. The cost of our school system exceeded the taxes collected a very long time ago. As a result, some states turned to Lottos to increase their supply of money for schools. Unfortunately, even Lotto proceeds are too little and too late. So we have American citizens sitting in over crowded classrooms enjoying a substandard education even without the added pressure of the children of illegal aliens. Again we find that our poor and low income families are taking the brunt of the damage. What’s the moral of the story? You can’t put 10 pounds of people into a 5 pound bag.
There is also the anecdotal argument that illegal aliens work hard and pay their taxes. An interesting point which I am sure is true at least in part. However let me respond with something equally anecdotal. The wire services and multi national banks are making a fortune transferring funds to foreign countries for a reason. A lot of these transfers are monies earned here and sent back to families in other countries. Generally that’s not a bad thing, I might even do it myself if the roles were reversed. On the other hand it doesn’t help our economy much and to the extent that taxes aren’t paid it’s a problem for the rest of us.
By the way, how do you pay income taxes if you don’t have a valid Social Security Number? It must be easy if all of the illegal aliens are doing it. I’m sorry I couldn’t resist the sarcasm. Let’s just agree to footnote the alleged fact that all illegal aliens are paying all of their taxes with a question mark.
Shifting gears to another subject – what about our need to control the transmission of serious diseases into this country? When the flow of people is unrestricted and unchecked we allow serious diseases like tuberculosis to invade our population. You should know that the rate of TB infections among foreign-born persons in the United States has been documented to be twelve times greater than among U.S. born persons. Not surprisingly, in 2011 California, Florida, New York and Texas accounted for more than half of all of the TB cases reported. Gee, do you wonder why that might be?
Enough about diseases. I’m sure we could find a lot of data suggesting that it is not in our best interests to allow a system which fails to identify and cure communicable diseases in aliens before they’re granted entry into the country. At least I think I’m sure. You never know these days.
What about terrorists? Remember those guys? It seems that virtually anyone can take a wade across the Rio Grande and by noon the next day be eating lunch on the River Walk in San Antonio. On the other hand, if you don’t mind snow or mosquitoes you could walk in from Canada. Heck, you can even fly in on a tourist visa or a student permit and just stay. Gee, do you actually think all of this is lost on al-Qaeda? If porous borders don’t frighten you, we need to get you checked for a heart beat. What else needs to be said? Control of our borders is a matter of national security.
Even if we don’t elevate the problem to the level of national security think about “what” as opposed to “who” is coming across our borders. You name it. Drugs, guns and/or any form of contraband you can think of. Let’s keep it simple. How about guns? We’re in the middle of a major national debate about gun control. The size of magazines and the type of action (semi-auto vs. auto) are being hotly discussed. Let’s say we outlaw magazines holding more than 10 shots and we outlaw the sale of automatic military style rifles. What do you think is going to happen? Every Tom, Dick and Harry will be rushing down to Venezuela to buy up Kalashnikov assault weapons from Mr. Chavez’s factory. Who do you think is going to purchase those weapons – law abiding citizens, or the bad guys who could care less about legalities? That should at least make the gun control crowd unhappy.
There is always the employment thing. The pro free-for-all crowd argues that illegal aliens are only taking jobs Americans don’t want. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that our American high school and college students are hard pressed to find a summer job of any kind.
Oh yes, I almost forgot crime. According to NewsMax, in 2007 approximately 40% of the prison population in California was made up of illegal aliens. And, according to the Federal Bureau of Prison Statistics up to a third of the federal prison population is composed of non-citizens. Of course they aren’t all illegal. Investor’s Business Daily has opined that once illegal aliens arrive here they are 50% more likely to be on welfare than citizens. If these stats are only half right it’s not a good thing.
To borrow from the Buffalo Springfield, it’s time to, “Look what’s going down.” Our borders are so porous they’re virtually nonexistent. The Federal government is refusing to enforce the current laws and beyond that is suing those state governments which have taken it upon themselves to protect their citizenry. Our border patrol is prosecuted by our own government and told not to do their jobs as defined in existing laws. The Attorney General’s office gives the appearance of attempting to defeat the purpose of the borders and seems disinclined to protect the sovereignty of America. Now the powers that be are arguing that illegal aliens should be given driver’s licenses. Which is about all you need to vote. Hyperbole? Maybe, but you must admit it’s uncomfortably close to the truth.
Why is all of this happening? Really? Why does our government refuse to control our borders? What is going on? Can the problem be that difficult to understand? Are the issues so complex as to befuddle our brightest leaders? I doubt it.
It seems pristinely clear that it is critical to our best interests as a nation to control our borders and to modulate the flow of immigrants into this country. It should be obvious that aside from the national security issues the most directly damaged segment of our population are low income and poverty level families who are in greatest need of the safety nets being consumed by illegal aliens.
The only answer to the question of why this situation hasn’t been corrected, that I can think of, is less than flattering to either political party.
Think about it. The illegal alien population represents millions of new voters. In this context it is useful to remember that the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election was 65,367,939 to 60,707,106. It should be clear that the political party which captures these new immigrant votes will be positioned to hold power for a very long time. From another prospective the illegal alien population represents a massive labor force willing to work at a discount. The value of that to U.S. business should be intuitively obvious. I fear that the conflict of interest for either political party is just too great to be disregarded.
So what do we do? I don’t have the answers, but I do have some thoughts which aren’t detailed enough to qualify as suggestions..
Let’s close our borders sufficiently to prevent anyone from entering without our knowledge and permission. Recall that the failure to control our borders was the fatal defect in the Reagon amnesty plan. The failure to control our borders is the single most important factor bringing us to where we find ourselves today.
True control over our borders will have a profound effect on the supply of illegal drugs, the smuggling of weapons, the survival of our health care system, the amount of crime in our streets, the composition of our prison populations, and the consumption of welfare, food stamps and other safety net programs intended to benefit our own poor and underprivelged citizens. Then, of course, there is the benefit to national security.
Under no circumstance would I trust our extant politicians to make the determination that our borders are under control. That responsibility should be placed in the hands of a carefully vetted Border Control Committee made up of individuals selected from the rank and file of relevant law enforcement agencies and bureaus, as well as state and federal military. I would also require that 75% of the committee members must agree before the committee could authorize the implementation of any border program. Part of this initial set of controls must include the creation of a sophisticated database of who belongs here, who doesn’t belong here, and who is applying to come here.
While the border control process was occurring the process of identifying and documenting all illegal aliens within our borders should begin. Those individuals who fail to fully document themselves within a reasonable period of time would be forever barred from legal status. The newly documented applicants could then be channeled into either a redefined work permit system or a redefined immigration process. At the same time the anchor baby law should be rescinded. All other enticements to enter the country illegally should also be removed. For example, welfare, food stamps, Obama care, access to public schools, employment, etc.. should only be available to citizens, documented aliens applying for citizenship, and/or authorized individuals living here pursuant to a valid work permit.
A key to the success of such a program is the development of a reliable universal method of identifying people. The work permit program must be an expedited process whereby the worker is reliably identified and documented into a database. Any employer willfully failing to clear and register their employees through this system should be subject to very significant civil and possibly criminal penalties.
The immigration process must also be expedited and available to illegal aliens already within our borders who have complied with the registration process. The trigger for initiating the new work and immigration programs would be a decision by the Border Control Committee that the borders had been in fact been “controlled.” To approach it any other way puts the cart before the horse.
The conflicts of interest are so great, I fear we will never extricate ourselves from this mess. Where are the American patriots who simply want treat the problem equitably, compassionately and with an eye toward what is best for this country?