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"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. ... Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Last night, President Bush announced his plans for dealing with America's illegal alien problem. His solution was balanced and moderate, giving to both sides some of what they want. The law and order types were offered National Guard troops on the border, fences, a tougher-to-forge immigrant ID, more border patrol agents, and an end to the "catch and release" policy of Other Than Mexicans. The illegal alien advocates were tossed a couple bones, with a formal "temporary guest worker" program and a forgiveness program for illegal aliens (since it's not a free and clear pardoning, it's technically not an "amnesty").

This plan was very carefully crafted. It throws a lot of red meat to the right, while offering a few sops to the left and middle. It was aimed at the middle of the road, the swing voters, while hoping to not alienate the right and not give new clubs to the left. In short, it was aimed at people like me -- a self-described "militant moderate."

It missed the mark -- at least for me.

I'm a moderate, but not a mushy one. I'm a pragmatist, but not one who settles for scraps. There are times when one has to stand on principle, to refuse to split the difference and call it even.

Bush's plan for illegal aliens sounds good on paper, but you-know-who is in the details -- and this plan is all details.

1) The National Guard will be called out -- to watch from a distance and build some fences. The 6,000 total refers to how many individuals will be sent to the border over the course of a year. If they go in the traditional two-week stints, we're talking an additional 231 Guardsmen at a time. Skipping the fence-building aspect and presuming all they do is watch for illegal aliens, and that they do it 8-hour shifts, that means each Guardsman would be responsible for 25 miles of border. Can I have a "BFD" from the choir?

2) Another 6,000 Border Patrol agents. These will be replacing the Guardsmen, largely, not supplementing them, so their effectiveness will be diminished. They should be more effective than Guardsmen (nothing against them, but the BP folks are better trained and have more authority to directly confront the illegal aliens.

3) An end to the "catch and release" policy that has had many arrested illegal aliens let go on a promise to show up later for court. This policy isn't just long overdue for removal, it was an obscenity from the first instant it was concieved. It was gross dishonesty on its face, and Bush should only receive minimal credit for finally ending something that he's tolerated for years. And again, that's only if it actually does stop.

4) "Temporary guest worker" programs. This has been thoroughly shredded and debunked as utterly unworkable numerous times before, so I'm not going to bother. I'm just going to point to Chris Muir's current Day By Day as the most insightful observation on the whole mess I've ever seen.

5) Tamper-proof IDs for legal aliens in the United States. Again, sounds great, but how it will be implemented will reveal just how well it will work. Market forces will almost inevitably trump a government plan, and there will be a huge incentive to find ways to fake the unfakeable IDs. There are a lot of very intelligent people who would very much like to find a way to make big money, and finding ways around the ID system offers access to a lot of money -- all under the table. What one technology can create, another can undo.

6) A graduated forgiveness program, based on how long someone has been in the United States. I predicted it before, and I'll repeat it again: the primary consequences of this will be twofold: a huge surge in illegal aliens looking to cross the border before it takes effect, and an explosion in forged documents that "prove" how long someone has been in the country. People will start finding ways to fake utility bills, rent receipts, and the like to show that Skippy who just hopped the border last week has been in the United States since the Clinton Administration, just quietly doing those jobs Americans don't want to do.

Bush needed to throw some red meat to the staunch anti-illegal-immigration elements, but he decided to cheap out. The meat he found was all fat and gristle, so it tastes good and will keep some chewing for a while, but it will ultimately prove frustrating, unsatisfying, and downright unhealthy. His grand initiative is full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.


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Comments (24)

The scary part is why bothe... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

The scary part is why bother with any of that. The Current Senate plan, depending on who you talk to, at least doubles traditional immigration numbers. But then there's the 'guest worker program'. It isn't a fixed number of guest workers we'd attempt to achieve and maintain. Its a yearly quantity that is permitted to get onto the path to permanent residence then citizenship. People who've run the numbers say over 100 million can enter the country legally & permanently over the next 20 years.

We aren't building a wall. We're building a front door and leaving it wide open for whoever wants to enter. The whole wall/enforcement is window dressing to give legitimacy to a wide-open immigration policy.

Sorry for being a paranoid cynic, but the whole troops thing smelled to me from the beginning. Why would this president get serious & potentially controversial now? But ultimately its as much as 'toss them a cookie' as you can get. There's no sincerity in it. It was just to help create fuss around the Presidents speach as a distraction from what now should be a key focus of the debate. The fact they are eliminating illegal immigration simply by classifying it all as legal.

Lord voldemort is in the de... (Below threshold)
harrypotter reader:

Lord voldemort is in the details?

I thought the President sta... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

I thought the President started off strong while talking about enforcement and I wish he would have stayed on that topic. He lost mid way through his 5-point plan. We don't need a guest worker program here. This is ridiculous.

With a guest worker program, we'll get regulations and an end to the cheap labor that illegal immigration is supposed to supply. So we are essentially going to import a large number of poor workers and the price of lettuce will still go up. So what's the point? And then who is going to make these people go home when their time is up? I'm sure we'll really enforce that. Why do I think that when the time comes for the first wave of temp. workers to go home, Congress will change the law once again.

And the idea that those who have come here illegally can be granted a path to citizenship is obscene and a complete slap in the face to those that have gone through the proper channels to come here legally. How in the world does our government think they can determine which people have been here for over 5 years and which haven't?

Build a fence, shut down the borders, and then we can talk about the other points, but not until that time.

It does double the level of... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

It does double the level of immigration. It also makes it harder for skilled workers to enter and easier for completely unskilled workers to enter.

The laws have been on the books for a long time. Our United States Congress has FAILED US.

They took an oath to uphold the laws of the nation and they have been negligent. ALL of them. They have allowed this problem to exist, grow and fester. Now WE have to pay.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.

I wish he had addressed the... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

I wish he had addressed the issue of pregnant women sneaking in to drop their baby here and making it an American citizen. Other countries restrict newborn citizenship to the offspring of their nationals.

3 cheers for Bush!!!!! Ide... (Below threshold)
Tim:

3 cheers for Bush!!!!! Identity theft will soon be legal!!! Steal a S.S. number, get a criminal background check which obviously doesn't include stealing the number, and become a citizen!!! You don't have a card? You must be one of those day laborers doing the jobs that people with stolen numbers aren't willing to do. That's ok, just report a real low number when you pay those back taxes. Fraud and theft aren't a big deal here. Hopefully you listened when Bush told you how to get here. It was right after he talked about the great wall and the unmanned drones. Remember? The part about your buddies slipping past the great wall in the back of the 18 wheeler. Can't find a truck? Don't worry, we're sending the National Guard down there to stop those nasty old minutemen. I'm sure you'll find a way in because we're stupid. Bush knows we can't even do math. Border patrol + 6 million illegals in 5 years = Only 11 million inside the U.S. in 20 years. Yeah that sounds right.

We have seen the weak and i... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

We have seen the weak and ineffective plans politicians have carefully crafted to be weak and ineffective so that they won't offend some voting block, yet look like they are doing something to solve the problem.

The solution is cheap and right in front of our faces, and that's privatized enforcement against employers who hire illegal aliens. Without jobs there's no reason to come to the U.S. illegally and those already here would be forced to go back home. It's a workable plan and it would mobilize a vast number of enforcers. No business would dare higher anyone without going through a simple, but well defined identification process that uses biometrics. Any business that follows the process is immune from fines even if the new hire turns out to be illegal. It's up to the government to provide a secure means of verifying anyone's status. It's all doable and much cheaper that any other plan I have heard of and it will work.

Any business that can't operate without illegal workers shouldn't be in business anyway. If farmers are forced to raise prices in order to mechanize harvesting, then so be it. If they can't compete with foreign produced goods, then welcome to the club.

Now if this or a better idea could get some traction with the public, maybe the politicians would have to do something that's at least as effective.

The only problem I have wit... (Below threshold)

The only problem I have with privatized enforcement is related to the problems Minutemen have with the Neo-Nazi's and other racists. A privatized enforcement would attract the same characters, and we would easily have a cadre of Brown Shirts stalking US businesses.

No thanks.

Well, it was about what was... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Well, it was about what was expected. It could of been written by Seinfeld, since it was a speech about nothing.

I predict that the National Guard effort will be worked just like the effort to provide more Border Patrol Officers. Promise will be made, funding witheld, and nothing done. Same thing with a fence along the border.

People will comment that a fence won't work, I'd refer them to the current wall in Israel, or the old one in Berlin. Making a wall work requires backing it up with enforcement, but you can make it work.

I am disappointed that the President didn't discuss fixing the mess that is the legal immigration process. If we can get that working smoothly, efficiently and customer focused we will cut down on numbers of OTM illegals in the country.

Finally, just say NO to amnesty.

Epador,We already ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Epador,

We already have privatized enforcement of some of the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. How many Brown Shirts have you found stalking US businesses? Privatized doesn't mean unregulated. Dismissing promising ideas out of hand without offering improvements only dooms the U.S. to becoming an nation of illegal immigrants.

Forgery? But these are hon... (Below threshold)
Master Shake:

Forgery? But these are honest, hard-working people. I'm sure they'd never commit a crime.

/sarc

Why does anybody oppose a w... (Below threshold)
Brahma:

Why does anybody oppose a wall? Is it because it would be expensive? Take up a collection! Is it because it wouldn't be entirely effective? It would certainly be a start. Perhaps it's because it would be too effective. What percentage wants no wall because it would slow down alien invasion?

Is a wall really practical?... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Is a wall really practical? has anyone come up with a cost estimate?

How about a comparison, cos... (Below threshold)
Brahma:

How about a comparison, cost of a wall vs. cost of uninhibited invasion?

Lee come on, you're dealing... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

Lee come on, you're dealing with the new age Republicans, there is not a price too high! Money is no object. Not building a wall is a purely political move.

Gee a wall. What a terrific... (Below threshold)
Tim:

Gee a wall. What a terrific idea. Of course a ladder to get over the wall is an even better idea, and it took me more time to type it then it did to think of it. No ladder? How about a blow torch to cut through the wall. It's a fence? ok some bolt cutters would do the job. Everyone in Washington already knows this, and all it takes is simple math to prove it. Roughly 300 million people in the U.S., 13% of which are legal hispanics = 39,000,000. Add to that the REAL number of 30,000 illegal aliens and you now have 39,030,000 Americans that like you for making their family citizens. That's over 1/3 of America. How can Bush say a wall will work, when he mentioned illegals coming inside of 18 wheelers in the same speech? How can he expect to build a wall, when a govt hammer costs $700 to make? My solution is harsh, but simple. Land mines with roadside check points.

A wall is affordable. If i... (Below threshold)
Matt:

A wall is affordable. If it is deemed to expensive, we could just take the money out of foreign aid to even things up a little.

When my neighbor built a wall on our property line I paid for half even though I didn't care one way or another about it being there. We get along very well with/without a wall. Maybe, being the good neighbor they claim to be, Mexico would pay part, or at least provide workers.

Walls/fences work. Even low-tech ones. I have had a wall/fence around by property for the whole 15 years I've lived there. It has only been breached twice. Once the trespasser was met by an angry dog, the second time the trespasser was met by an angry dog backed up with an angry and armed homeowner. Needless to say, the trespassers didn't stay to discuss issues with us. It is amazing how fast someone can leave a place the way they came in, when they face negative consequences.

A good sturdy wall backed up with armed apprehension, will make people understand we welcome guests, and don't welcome law-breakers. Just like at home.

We don't want to be bad nei... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

We don't want to be bad neighbors with Mexico, so the idea of a wall is out. However, we could build an 8 lane interstate from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and build a 30 foot high sound barrier on the south side. That way we'll still be good neighbors to Mexico and if the south most lane is adjacent to the barrier and the speed limit is 80 MPH or higher, the road will draw a lot of traffic and should be quite effective at stopping illegal's from crossing.

Of course if you move the i... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Of course if you move the interstate with it's sound barrier about a 200 yards into the U.S. and have a fence right on the border, you would then have an excellent patrol zone where no one other than border security should be. It would be easy to get through the fence, but then you're out in the open trying to get over a 30 foot barrier knowing that you can't just drop down to the other side without running the risk of getting flattened by a truck.

How about a comparison, ... (Below threshold)
Lee:

How about a comparison, cost of a wall vs. cost of uninhibited invasion?

And don't forget to add to the cost of the wall the $1.9 Billion price tag on the puppet show Bush is now running, pretending to secure our border with yesterday's "plan". Apparently the amount of money Bush is willing to waste to appease the conservatives indeed knows no bounds.

Can a right-winger please e... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Can a right-winger please explain two things to me:

a.) Why did Bush cut the number of border patrol guards earlier?

b.) What tangible event has happened in order to create this sea change?

Thanks in advance.

First of all Bush is out-an... (Below threshold)
Radical Centrist:

First of all Bush is out-and-out lying about the guard going to the border, it's not going to happen, it was a bone thrown to appease the outraged right. As for adding new border guards, the National Intelligence Reform Act included
the requirement to add 10,000 border patrol agents in the five years beginning with 2006, but Bush only allowed funding for 210 new border agents, yes you read that right 210 new agents. He does not want the border secure, he has waited 51/2 years and only now does he realize our border is out of control. And then he says deporting the 11 million to 20 million illegal aliens already here is simply impossible, but then brags in his address that we have deported 6 million illegal aliens in just the last five years. Why is 6 million possible and praiseworthy, but 11 million is a ludicrous impossibility?

What an utter and complete ... (Below threshold)
JD:

What an utter and complete flop this POTUS has turned into.

Dubya needed to open up a can of Whoop-Ass, and instead he opened up a can of 91 octane.

Maybe Karl Rove wants the GOP out of congressional power in 2008 so that the presumptive GOP candidate (Jeb Bush?) can ostensibly run as an "outsider" sent in to reform things.

Feh.

The focus should be on keep... (Below threshold)
GR:

The focus should be on keeping people in Mexico. Mexico has vast amounts of natural resources. Changes need to be made within the country to develope and improve condition in Mexico. Then the people would have a reason to stay.




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