I agreed with President Bush again tonight. I agree with him every time he talks about immigration. I just wish he would never talk about or do anything about all the other problems we have. But on this one, he is right on track.
Tonight, he talked about a number of immigration related proposals and actions. The first of these is that he has said that he is adding 6,000 national guard troops at the border. These troops will be under state control but be funded by the Federal Government. Of course, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared states of emergency on the border months ago that allowed the deployment of the guard, while making the point that securing the international border is a Federal, not a state, responsiblity. So here in Arizona, we know that the President has finally recognized and signed onto the Governor's plan, as is also the case in our neighbors to the east, but I guess if you live in the other forty-eight states it sounded like a new proposal. Regardless, it is part of his overall set of proposals, and it should be. I'm not necessarily thrilled myself about putting troops on our border with Mexico, but as long as our border patrol is overwhelmed by the scope of the task they have (not just involving illegal aliens, but also involving more and more smuggling of methamphetamines, cocaine and other high potency drugs, as well as the growing threat posed by the zetas and other paramilitary organizations, it is appropriate for us to put the troops there.
A second point that the President made was to reiterate his support for a guest worker program. He has said this for years, and it is one of the main reasons why I believe that this President is right about this issue. These people are already in the United States, working here and trying to do nothing other than provide a living for their families. Let's not treat them like criminals, instead give them a way to live, work, pay taxes and otherwise be productive members of our society.
He has said that he does not support 'amnesty,' which he described here as an 'automatic path to citizenship.' I agree that it should not be automatic. Citizenship is something that we in America value, so it should be earned. If someone fails to abide by certain standards (for example, committing a felony in America while a non-citizen should probably be grounds for failing to achieve citizenship), then they should not be granted it automatically. For those who earnestly want to become Americans, America is still big enough to receive them. I reject the small-minded thinking of those who claim that it is not. One thing when he did not mention but which must be part of any long term solution: legal immigration quotas must be adjusted to meet the needs of the labor market. If there is one lesson we can take from capitalism, it is that where there is a market, that market will put pressure on the system until it is satisfied. If we continue to set immigration quotas unrealistically low, then we are setting ourselves up for a future that looks like today, no matter what we do.
Overall, though, I have always thought that President Bush's vision on immigration was reasonable and rational. As long as he maintains those views, this is one of the very few areas where I hope he succeeds. This week, the Senate is likely to pass an immigration bill that will resemble the President's plan. Then we will have to convince the House Republicans that his plan is a good one, and that they should abandon their hard line anti-immigrant approach.
I would also add one other item that he did not talk about, but which has to be part and parcel of our immigration plan. That has to do with port security. Right after 9/11, it was pointed out that less than two percent of cargo containers entering America is inspected. Today, that figure has hardly budged. Yet, illegal immigrants from China and other Asian countries do not generally walk across our southern border-- they mostly come in hidden in cargo containers. And if you build a wall? Then the Mexicans will likely as not start shipping themselves in inside cargo containers too. Yet the President has not asked, nor has Congress appropriated, the funds to inspect all (or even significantly more than we have in the past) of the cargo containers that enter American ports.