The congressional amnesty proposal deceptively named the “Dream Act” is dying a slow death in the lame-duck session of Congress. The defeat of the amnesty bill should come as no surprise, but the real victory lies deeper than the vote count.

The defeat of the Dream Act in the lame-duck closing session of the Pelosi-Reid era signals the end not only of the Dream Act but the end of the prolonged amnesty debate as well. The fact that the Dream Act could only be brought to a vote in a lame-duck Congress tells us that the amnesty debate has run its course. The new debate in 2011 and beyond will be over border security – how to achieve it and how to deal with the ramifications for Mexico.

When former Republican backers of the Dream Act like Sen. Lindsey Graham are saying that they can never vote for an amnesty bill until we have border security, the game is up. It means two things. First, Dream Act proponents have given up the transparent fiction that the bill is not an amnesty bill. Second, they are admitting that any new amnesty will be an incentive for another wave of illegal aliens across the border. Even for amnesty advocates, border security is seen as a political precondition for serious consideration of any future amnesty law.

That is what I said in a September 2006 lecture at the Heritage Foundation. Border security has not improved significantly since then, and because of that, the amnesty bill is dead in the water.

That’s the good news. The public debate will now move to border security. The bad news is that political correctness in Washington prevents a rational debate over measures to achieve border security.

Concerned about the impact of illegal aliens on the United States? Don’t miss Tom Tancredo’s book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security”

To avoid dealing with the real problem, the lack of meaningful border security, the open-borders lobby will attempt to frame that debate with the same level of deception and duplicity they employed in the amnesty debate. The problem they will encounter is that our open borders are impossible to disguise. Nor can the problem be defined away with clever bureaucratic jargon. Will achieving an “80 percent improvement in border security” be acceptable if that means only 200,000 unknown persons will enter the country illegally each year? No.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been running around the country for the past year trying to sell the big lie that “the southwest border is as secure as it has ever been.” It’s not true, and because it’s so obviously not true, nobody believes her. Because Napolitano has persisted in pushing this lie in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, she has lost all credibility as a spokesman for homeland security. If the Obama administration wants to get serious about border security, the first thing they must do is fire Napolitano and get a fresh start.

But removing Napolitano does not change the political equation. The Obama administration has a deeper problem than Napolitano, and that is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which, sadly, has become a mouthpiece for the government of Mexico. Mexico stands firmly against border security, which means the Congressional Hispanic Caucus opposes any measure that would achieve true border security. We can’t know for certain whether the CHC can continue to enforce a veto over Obama border policies, but given Obama’s ideological predisposition, which always finds America at fault, I wouldn’t bet against them.

For this reason, the debate about how to achieve border security will inevitably become a debate about the future of Mexico and how to “help Mexico solve its problems.” We should welcome this debate, but we should not expect any more honesty in that debate than we had in the amnesty debate.

A debate over Mexico’s future and U.S. policy toward Mexico is likely to become a debate between Mexican apologists and American realists. Mexico has a long tradition of blaming all of its problems on its powerful neighbor to the north, and any serious attempt to secure our southwest border against illegal entry will be condemned by Mexico and its apologists as “anti-Mexican.”

The response of American realists should be to ignore the name-calling and insist on two principles. First, U.S. national security and our sovereign right to control our borders take precedence over Mexico’s national interests, whatever they may be. Second, it is not in either the U.S.’s interests or Mexico’s national interest for Mexico to continue to export its problems to the north.

The hard truth that Mexican apologists find so hard to accept is that achieving true border security on the 1,500-mile U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego to Brownsville is a necessary first step toward forcing Mexico to deal with its economic and social problems. It’s a necessary goal for U.S. national security, but it’s also a desirable goal for Mexico itself.

The United States should be prepared to expand aid to Mexico, but only when Mexico decides to cooperate in achieving true border security. For example, defeating the drug cartels is in America’s interests as much as Mexico’s, but border security is a critical element in defeating the cartels. For Mexico to pretend it can defeat the cartels’ drug smuggling without also defeating its human smuggling is a delusion that must end.

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