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April 22, 2006
Starting To Get The Message

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pens a column for today's National Review that demonstrated that GOP leadership has heard the conservative base on immigration. It falls short in several respects, but Frist's article shows that the message has finally started sinking into the stubborn heads of legislators:

Democrat obstruction torpedoed comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate earlier this month. At the same time, concerns about getting our border under control came into clear relief with news this week of the Department of Homeland Security's effort to crack down on egregious violations of immigration law. It is time to both secure our borders and reform our immigration system. So next week, the Senate will act to increase funding for border security-first. And then, before the end of May, the Senate must again take up-and finish-comprehensive immigration system reform.

When it takes up the immigration reform, the Senate must address border security, worksite enforcement, and the status of the 12 million people who are currently here illegally. But to build confidence among Americans and Congress that the government takes border security seriously, we have to act to help get the border under control right now.

By Memorial Day, the president plans to sign an emergency-spending measure, which we will use to fund this next step in border security. ... Last year, Judd Gregg and others lead an effort to hire 1,500 new border patrol agents and build 1,800 new detention beds. The proposal we will consider next week provides nearly $2 billion to build a border fence in high-traffic areas, add new border-patrol aircraft to help police lower traffic areas, and support training for additional Customs and Border Protection Agents.

There isn't a tremendous amount to love in this proposal. First, why do we need emergency spending bills to take care of the chronic problem of immigration. Congress has fallen in love with this method of budgeting; three years into the Iraq War, they are still funding operations through emergency spending legislation. Immigration has been a problem for decades now. It's no longer an emergency, it's just an embarrassment.

More substantially, the proposal to build security barriers in "high-traffic areas" has some serious and common-sense holes, literally and figuratively. For one thing, if we only build barriers in places with high traffic, what does anyone outside of Congress think will happen? The illegal immigrants will flock to the places where no barrier exists. When the US Army builds fortifications, do they only build them on the one spot where the enemy attacked before? Of course not -- they secure their entire perimeter. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

On the plus side, at least Frist is finally addressing security as a prerequisite to resolving the problem of the illegals already here. That represents a leap forward in GOP thinking, and the conservative base can pat themselves on the back for that much progress. Frist has finally heard the message that any "reform" that does not credibly secure the border will be viewed as Simpson-Mazzoli Part Deux, with the force-multiplying effect that its predecessor had on illegal immigration. The conservatives have not put up with the budget-busting antics of this Congress and this administration to once again grant amnesty to illegals and put out an even larger welcome mat than before for the rest.

Until we credibly secure the border and end the flood over the Rio Grande, then no reform package will do anything except encourage more people to break our laws and bust our borders. Fifty-five months after 9/11, we still cannot convince Congress that national security demands tough border enforcement. Now that we have made it clear that re-election requires tough border enforcement, we seem to have their attention.

Build the wall all the way across the border. Stop the acute issue of illegal and uncontrolled entry into the US by foreign nationals, whatever their motivation. Once we have that accomplished, then we can debate the full range of possible solutions to those already here.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 22, 2006 10:38 AM

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