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Last month, President Bush went to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of his new push for immigration “reform” that includes a mix of tougher enforcement of existing laws as well as his oft-touted “guest worker” program. The first part of his plan is worthy of merit; the second part will be a bureaucratic nightmare that will do nothing to improve our immigration problem.

On the plus side, Bush did provide some long overdue support to the thin green line of the U.S. Border Patrol in outlining his three-point plan to bolster border security:

  • Any illegal migrant caught at the border will be immediately repatriated to his or her home town, not simply released a few hundred yards back across the border. The thinking here is returning illegals to their home towns, which are often hundreds of miles from the border, will make it much more difficult for them to return.

  • The president wants to reform immigration law by eliminating “senseless” rules including provisions requiring illegals to be released by the U.S. government if the alien’s home country doesn’t accept him or her back in a reasonable amount of time. In the past, that has meant releasing alien criminals – murderers, rapists, child molesters – into American society.

  • The government will do more to stop people from crossing into the United States illegally in the first place. That will mean a 30-percent increase in the number of Border Patrol agents to about 12,500 by 2006; employing the latest surveillance and monitoring technology; and constructing physical barriers such as fences and new patrol roads.

“As a former governor, I know that enforcing the law and the border is especially important to the communities along the border. Illegal immigration puts pressure on our schools and hospitals – I understand that. I understand it strains the resources needed for law enforcement and emergency services,” Bush said in a Nov. 28 speech at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. “We are going to protect the border.”

All well and good. And it’d be about time.

But it’s also time to get real.

Despite talk of these improvements – and so far it’s only talk – the president remains wedded to his temporary-worker program, an idea that will not only worsen the immigration bureaucracy, but will do nothing to reverse a growing trend among immigrants to reject assimilation and citizenship in lieu of filching the American dream.

Part of the guest-worker program involves registering all of its participants, a process that undoubtedly will take years to complete and cost boatloads of money. This ongoing process – I assume there will always be “jobs Americans won’t do,” so I assume there will always be poor immigrants to fill them – will serve to add multiple layers to an already overwhelmed border enforcement bureaucracy, without guaranteeing there won’t be fraud and abuse rampant throughout the system.

And what happens when these guests overstay their welcome – and some of the will. Americans are being led to believe the government will then search them out and ship them home, which – if it even happens – will add still more layers of bureaucracy onto the overburdened immigration system, because it will add new duties and responsibilities to the federal government.

I realize these guests will only be able to enter the United States if they have a job (it was hard to say that with a straight face), but what happens if they want to change jobs? Will they be allowed to? And if so, will they be required to file paperwork denoting a change in employment status with immigration officials? Will it simply be a notification process, or will it be a request that needs to be approved by someone – in which case you can bet it will become another process that gets bogged down.

Thereby further complicating and overburdening the system.

Thereby making the system even more expensive and difficult to maintain.

Listen, this whole “guest-worker” charade may make a good sound bite and it may win the Republicans a few Hispanic votes and it may placate the business interests that feed dollars to both major political parties. But as public policy, it stinks worse than a New Orleans street.

Successive U.S. leaders have sidestepped real immigration reform efforts for decades, while they appeased the open-borders lobby, the Mexican government, and scores of special-interest groups. The result is that now the problem has grown so large as to be unmanageable.

Doing anything other than kicking out the lawbreakers and strengthening our borders so they can’t simply sneak in again is only further appeasement that will make the situation even worse than it already is.

Meantime, it’s difficult to know how many more criminals and terrorists we will let walk in before we elect leaders with enough vision to see the dangers we’re creating for ourselves, and enough sand to do something about it.

Until we make it too painful or too risky or too pointless for people to violate our sovereign borders with impunity, they will continue to do so, and no amount of additional bureaucracy will temper that.

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