Dems dif­fer from their con­stituents on im­mi­gra­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - LA­MAR SMITH

Most Amer­i­cans clearly want their gov­ern­ment to se­cure the borders and en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws. They un­der­stand what many elected of­fi­cials still don’t: re­ward­ing law­break­ers with amnesty only en­cour­ages a new flood of il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

In Septem­ber, New York Demo­cratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer an­nounced a plan to al­low il­le­gal im­mi­grants to ob­tain New York driv­ers’ li­censes. The pro­posal has been sharply crit­i­cized across the na­tion. A re­cent poll found 77 per­cent of Amer­i­cans op­pose driv­ers’ li­censes for il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

De­spite over­whelm­ing op­po­si­tion, the pro­posal still has sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing many of the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Sen. Hil­lary Clin­ton of New York found out the hard way that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are un­will­ing to ac­cept any­thing but a pub­lic de­nounce­ment of this pro­posal.

The pub­lic out­cry ul­ti­mately forced Mr. Spitzer to with­draw his pro­posal, but the dam­age was done. With the 2008 elec­tions less than a year away, se­nior Demo­cratic lead­ers and mem­bers of Congress are des­per­ately try­ing to strike the right tone on im­mi­gra­tion. But ef­forts by Democrats to toughen talk­ing points against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion are disin­gen­u­ous at best.

In fact, Democrats and var­i­ous in­ter­est groups have never been se­ri­ous about re­duc­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. In the last two years, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of House Democrats voted against al­most ev­ery piece of leg­is­la­tion aimed at re­duc­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. For ex­am­ple:

• 80 per­cent said no to en­hanced border se­cu­rity and in­creased en­force­ment of laws pro­hibit­ing the em­ploy­ment of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. The pro­posed bill re­quired the use of a ba­sic pilot pro­gram, which helps em­ploy­ers de­ter­mine whether their em­ploy­ees are le­gal.

• 74 per­cent said no to na­tional se­cu­rity stan­dards for driv­ers’ li­censes to pre­vent alien ter­ror­ists from get­ting iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments. The REAL ID Act aimed at keep­ing out and re­mov­ing alien ter­ror­ists from the U.S.

• 63 per­cent said no to strength­en­ing border se­cu­rity by con­struct­ing re­in­forced fences along the U.S.-Mex­ico border.

Se­nate Democrats also have re­fused to re­duce il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. For ex­am­ple:

• 75 per­cent said no to en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws be- fore be­gin­ning the le­gal­iza­tion process for the 12 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants now in the U.S. By op­pos­ing the com­mon-sense Coburn Amend­ment, many Democrats re­jected the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s call for im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

• 86 per­cent said no to in­creas­ing the num­ber of de­ten­tion beds, al­low­ing for the con­fine­ment of il­le­gal im­mi­grants to en­sure their ap­pear­ance for im­mi­gra­tion hear­ings.

• 84 per­cent said no to fund­ing 800 more im­mi­gra­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Com­pare those num­bers to the 69 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who said they want il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion re­duced.

Re­fus­ing to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws sim­ply main­tains the sta­tus quo. Demo­cratic pro­pos­als that re­ward il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, like Gov. Spitzer’s plan in New York, only ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem and en­cour­age il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Re­duc­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion re­quires in­creased border se­cu­rity, ef­fec­tive en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws and an end to the job mag­net that en­tices il­le­gal im­mi­grants to come here and stay.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­gun to re­spond to the con­vic­tions ex­pressed by the Amer­i­can peo­ple. But their ef­forts are blocked by in­ter­est groups like the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, the AFL-CIO and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, who filed a law­suit to block the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a key en­force­ment mea­sure. Specif­i­cally, they hope to block the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment’s “no match” rule, de­signed to iden­tify il­le­gal im­mi­grants us­ing fraud­u­lent So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers to ob­tain jobs. It is no sur­prise that th­ese same groups fa­vor amnesty.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple un­der­stand that il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is just that, il­le­gal. They un­der­stand laws are mean­ing­less un­less en­forced. But they can’t un­der­stand why so many elected of­fi­cials pay lip-ser­vice to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment back home while vot­ing against it in Wash­ing­ton.

On il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, it’s time for Democrats to take a les­son in Civics 101 and start rep­re­sent­ing the views of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. It’s time Congress got se­ri­ous about im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

La­mar Smith, Texas Repub­li­can, is the rank­ing mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

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