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1,000-pound gorilla is immigration

Right About Now

Posted: April 11, 2008 7:51 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The Secure Fence Act was passed in October 2006, but Congress adjourned without appropriating funds to implement building it. The act included mandated deadlines, such as an interlocking surveillance camera system to be installed by May 2007 and a portion of the fence to be completed by the end of 2008.

In typical legislative fashion, "action" was taken, but the action was really only "words" because no money was provided. Many Americans, especially those in the states along the approximately 2,000-mile border with Mexico, bombarded their congressmen with letters. Some volunteered to pay for and construct the fence.

Senate Democrats stalled the funding of the fence, all the while trying to pass immigration legislation dealing with the millions of illegals.

Variations of the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Bill rose and fell from 2005 to 2007. Unable to find a resolution, and faced with a presidential election, Congress punted.

Illegal immigration transcends all issues in the 2008 presidential election.

It pervades most aspects of our massive federal governmental system. Every hot new topic that comes to the political forefront is affected and impacted by the 12 million to 20 million people living here illegally.

This thousand-pound gorilla called "illegal immigration" sits on the backs of U.S. taxpayers and costs them billions of dollars in health-related services, education and public safety.

Early in the campaign, the Democrats, backed by a cheerleading media, put forth the war in Iraq as the No. 1 issue. As the "troop surge" initiated by President Bush in early 2007 became successful, the Democrats and their media allies turned their attention to the need for universal health care.

The urgency for that quickly cooled as Republicans came forth with math showing the costs to taxpayers. The collapse of the housing market and the slowing of the economy put the political focus back on the Republican turf: namely, a reduction in federal spending and the elimination of inefficient programs.

The problem of illegal immigration hovers near the surface of all campaign issues, showing its ugly head only occasionally. It is, however, the most precarious and potentially damaging obstacle to lifetime politicians of all stripes. Legislators from both parties allowed the numbers of illegals to swell into uncontrollable and unmanageable numbers. They have now spread across the country.

Although beneath the political radar, the problem of illegal immigration continues to stymie our elected officials. It just won't go away.

A bipartisan-sponsored amnesty bill almost slipped through Congress last year. Fortunately, however, political conservatives, through the use of talk radio, sounded the alarm to U.S. citizens. Suddenly our lawmakers, who had slumbered in a Rip Van Winkle-like state for 20 years, awoke to realize that something must be done about all those millions of illegal residents.

The quick cure seemed to be amnesty. After all, it had worked before.

There was a precedent. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to some 2.7 million aliens. This time around, however, the amount of illegals and their negative societal impact on the general public was greater than the U.S. Senate had perceived.

Taxpaying Americans, however, did not see things the same way as many of their free-spending legislators.

Our politically correct culture reinforces lawbreaking by not allowing routine citizenship verification prior to receiving services and monetary assistance. Public education is largely funded by headcount; i.e., the more kids, the more government money received by school districts. In many cases, government also provides upper-level education and drivers' licenses for illegals.

We must not let motor-voter laws provide a mechanism to obtain legitimate voting power. We cannot blur the line between legal and illegal, as Democrats seem to want to do.

In October 2007, one year after Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, $1.2 billion was appropriated to build the fence across a 700-mile portion of the border. Curiously, 330 miles of the barrier is a "virtual" fence.

Only government bureaucrats could design, and then try to secure, this invisible "virtual" fence. What people really want is a double fence similar to the one just south of San Diego.

Early this month the Bush administration announced that it would use waivers to bypass environmental and bureaucratic rules so that the fence could be finished before President Bush completes his term.

Various federal, state and local laws have tied up most of those remaining portions. As of March 17, 2008, only 309 miles of the fencing was in place.

Border-state residents complain that sensors don't work, concrete barriers are too short and that only about 170 miles of real pedestrian fencing have been constructed.

While Congress fiddles, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California have started to take things into their own hands. Arizona, in particular, has stepped up to the political plate by passing a law that closes businesses that hire illegals.

Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpalo uses unique methods of enforcement, including a posse of volunteers to search out illegal workers. These efforts, combined with a declining economy and the slowing of housing construction, have caused many transient illegals to return to Mexico.

However, the rate of attrition for well-established illegal immigrants who have been here many years has not changed.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. McCain clearly sees the importance of completing the fence immediately. He also has expressed the need to enforce employment verification and workplace laws.
Conversely, the Democrats and the media alike seemingly believe illegal immigration to be a non-issue. What's up with that?

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" rotates among local Republican writers.


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