Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bush on immigration

For your consideration, a little history of George W. Bush and immigration, particularly Mexican immigration.

It seems that his father, President George "41" Bush, hired a Mexican housekeeper when they lived in Midland. Her name was Paula Rendon. I've never read anything about her immigration status, but little George says, "She loved me. She chewed me out. She tried to shape me up."

Maybe Paula taught him how to say "nucular". Maybe she taught him the meaning of the word "amnesty". Maybe she was the one who taught him about budgets and how to live within your means. (Sorry for the sarcasm. I couldn't resist.)

Thanks to Karl Rove, the Bush family has embraced the Hispanic voter. You don't win in Texas politics without at least considering the Latinos. You can court them or work around them, but you must factor them in.

And the President has done very well with the brown vote; remarkably well for a Republican.

As President it didn't take long for him to work on the Guest Worker program. In a press briefing on July 26, 2001, Ari Fleischer was gallantly attempting to explain to reporters that the guest worker program was NOT amnesty. (Some things never change!) You can read the text of that exchange at www.whitehouse.gov/news/briefings/20010726.html

Bush had only been in the White House for six months and already he was having trouble explaining why the plan wasn't amnesty.

Just six days before 9/11 Bush was entertaining Vicente Fox at the White House. Both of them were pushing hard to get amnesty (er...Guest Worker status) for illegal aliens. And even then, way back in September of 2001, Bush said, "Mexican trucks ought to be moving in the United States." (There's a little tidbit for you Super Highway folks.)

And during that visit Bush talked in guarded but optimistic terms about getting his Guest Worker plan passed by the end of 2001.

Then planes flew into buildings and all of Washington backed off on bringing foreigners into the country. The spotlight was on border security and visa controls, not open borders and amnesty.

Voter amnesia was given a chance to work and in January of 2004 Bush was back with his Guest Worker program. It was, after all, an election year. The Hispanics needed some stroking if he was going to win in November. And most experts estimate that 40% of the brown vote went to Bush that year. Those are fine numbers. The Big Tent theory was working.

Also in January of 2004, Bush requested that the Border Patrol conduct surveys of the people captured trying to cross the border. I suppose he expected these people to say, "I just want to come here to work so I can feed my family back home." Well, the results were not so altruistic.

What they said was that they had heard Bush was going to offer amnesty and they wanted to get in here while the getting was good.

The survey lasted for about two weeks and was pulled. The administration tried to hush it up but Judicial Watch sued to get it released under Freedom of Information. They got some of the results, not all. It is an interesting read for those who want to know why people want to sneak across our southern border.

Now, Bush has tried to walk the line with conservatives. He presented his comprehensive plan on April 24, 2006. One of his planks was "Better worksite enforcement". But a month later as the keynote speaker at the NRA in Chicago (not THAT NRA, the National Restaurant Association) Bush forgot all about worksite enforcement. Instead, he inserted in its place, "We must create a reliable system for verifying documents and work eligibility..." There was no way he was going to tell that group that ICE agents were going to do more raids and send employers to jail.

Why? Because nearly 20% of the illegals are employed in the hospitality business.

And how did the NRA like Bush? They supported him and endorsed his reform plan. Why? Because the plan represents the best hope for NRA businesses to continue to have cheap labor.

Sometimes Bush appears tough on enforcement. After all, he signed the 700 mile fence bill. And worksite raids are on the rise. And we have 10% more detention beds. And we've hired more border agents. And we sent the National Guard to help at the border. We're doing a good job, right?

I would say those are incremental efforts to address a monumental problem. And although it looks good on paper, the reality is that Bush has said "no" to many efforts that would have helped.

Did you know that Bush had authorization from Congress after 9/11 to add border patrol agents and he left money on the table! He could have hired hundreds more three years ago and chose not to do it.

As for beds, Bush could have pushed to convert closed military bases into detention centers five years ago, and he didn't. His paltry 2,200 new beds is a drop in the bucket.

Some of the programs Bush talks about have existed for years, like Basic PILOT for work eligibility verification. But no one wants to make it mandatory since that would raise the ire of the Latinos and his friends in business.

And Bush alone can take responsibility for the lack of cooperation in government. Social Security, the IRS, and ICE are supposed to be sharing data and working together. But five years after 9/11 they still don't.

Well, you can read more about Bush elsewhere. I can only say that his tough talk isn't matched by action. Is there any wonder that the American people question the Executive Branch's ability to carry out any enforcement strategy? We are tired of Washington looking at our phone records and bank transactions. We are tired of taking our clothes off at the airport and leaving behind our shampoo and pocket knives. We've done everything we've been asked to do and given you more power than ever before, and yet you refuse to create an atmosphere of deterrence to stop the illegal aliens here.

House Bill 4437 was a good effort, but Bush didn't like it. That says it all for me.

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