October 23, 2007

Thompson Goes Wonk On Immigration

Fred Thompson has made his first foray into serious policy debate with an outline of his immigration plan. More a list of parameters than a plan, Thompson stakes out some hard-line turf in the Republican primaries, with plans for attriting out illegals through tough enforcement. He also wants to broaden legal immigration and put a rational system of management in place of the failing bureaucracy we have now:

1. No Amnesty. Do not provide legal status to illegal aliens. Amnesty undermines U.S. law and policy, rewards bad behavior, and is unfair to the millions of immigrants who follow the law and are awaiting legal entry into the United States. In some cases, those law-abiding and aspiring immigrants have been waiting for several years.

2. Attrition through Enforcement. Reduce the number of illegal aliens through increased enforcement against unauthorized alien workers and their employers. Without illegal employment opportunities available, fewer illegal aliens will attempt to enter the country, and many of those illegally in the country now likely will return home. Self-deportation can also be maximized by stepping up the enforcement levels of other existing immigration laws. This course of action offers a reasonable alternative to the false choices currently proposed to deal with the 12 million or more aliens already in the U.S. illegally: either arrest and deport them all, or give them all amnesty. Attrition through enforcement is a more reasonable and achievable solution, but this approach requires additional resources for enforcement and border security ...

4. Reduce the Jobs Incentive. Ensure employee verification by requiring that all U.S. employers use the Department of Homeland Security's electronic database (the E-Verify system) to confirm that a prospective employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Now that the technology is proven, provide sufficient resources to make the system as thorough, fast, accurate, and easy-to-use as possible.

5. Bolster Border Security. Finish building the 854-mile wall along the border by 2010 as required by 8 USC 1103. Extend the wall beyond that as appropriate and deploy new technologies and additional resources to enhance detection and rapid apprehension along our borders by 2012.

This is basically the Duncan Hunter position, which relies on border security and tough enforcement of existing laws. That applies to the illegal immigrants themselves as well as the companies that hire them. Fred wants to eliminate the "magnets" that draw illegals to the US -- relatively easy border crossings, jobs, and sanctuary cities.

Most Republicans will like this plan, although it hasn't done Hunter much good so far. It doesn't get as punitive as Tom Tancredo, at least not in tone, and it addresses the issue with rationality, at least in part. The inclusion of immigration-process reform shows that Fred has not given in to the nativist impulse and understands that we need to speak at least as much about opportunity as we do about enforcement.

However, some problems exist with this plan, not least of which the notion of attrition solving our current problems. Attrition will take years, perhaps decades, and will not drive the truly worrisome people from our midst. Normalization of some variety would allow us to quickly achieve transparency for the vast majority of illegals in the US, which would also then allow us to seek out those who might have designs against the security of the nation. We cannot possibly make poverty here less attractive than the reality of poverty elsewhere, and the notion that 12-20 million people will simply walk back across a newly-secured border after being here for years seems rather fantastic. Many will, but many more will not, and we will still be left with an enforcement problem that outstrips our ability to solve it.

Still, as a plan, it exceeds most of what has been produced in this primary season. It shows that Fred has been listening to the party on immigration instead of dictating solutions to the voters.


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Comments (45)

Posted by Terrye | October 23, 2007 3:50 PM


That is a good analysis. I am afraid however, that no solution will be pefect or will satisfy everyone. Not possible.

Posted by quickjustice | October 23, 2007 4:04 PM

The plan is serious and sensible, as are your criticisms of it.

B/T/W, New York is beginning to experience a crime wave by unemployed illegal immigrants as the economy softens. Addressing the problem of criminal aliens is about to become politically far more urgent, especially in sanctuary cities and states like New York, where Governor Spitzer has proposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

A backlash against illegal aliens, criminal or not, is growing.

Posted by Frumious Bandersnatch | October 23, 2007 4:16 PM

This appears to be very similar to the Eisenhower plan which was able to clear up the illegal immigration problem in a matter of months in the '50s.

Posted by Tim W | October 23, 2007 4:16 PM

This plan is a good start as it gets to the heart of the problem with the "comprehensive" plan and that is the rewarding of people who break our laws with a path to citizianship. These people should be penalized, not rewarded as it will only encourage more illegal immigration in the future. The Feds should put illegals caught here on a list of people who are forever barred from potential citizinship. This coupled with strong employer enforcement, border enforcement and cutting off any governmental assistance will cause many to self deport.

Posted by Native Son | October 23, 2007 4:26 PM

Here's my immigration policy:

If you're a legal immigrant, welcome!

If you're an illegal immigrant, we find you once, you get fingerprinted and "advised" to leave and not come back.

If we find you a 2nd time, we drop you where you stand and send your body back to your homeland for burial.

Posted by Carol Herman | October 23, 2007 4:32 PM


I live in Southern California. More than 1000 houses burnt to the ground.

The electrical grid in San Diego; which is being consumed by fires; can cause blackouts. And, headaches, galore.

Fires are different than floods.

While in Southern California (unlike New Orleans), those who are here are blended in and part of the work force.

Whom do you think "builds abodes?"

What do you think will be there to give the Fed's credit, if the work force is put under pressures by the Feds? Where terrorists pay good money (in Riyadh) to Baker, Botts, and Moneybags; to get into this country as legit? They did for 9/11. The loophole hasn't closed.

Today, Daniel Pipes writes that Condi's plans for Annapolis, can hurt Israel's and American's interests like nothing else.

Bush doesn't care.

His job is as the Saud's Realtor.

While, yes, the factions fight among themselves.

Do you really think the social conservatives are all this important?

What about the handwriting on the wall? (Palestinian state exists right next to land stolen from Israel).

All I know is that Olmert is very quiet. Doesn't speak.

But he did demonstrate "something" on September 6th; which included going ahead with a military move, wiping out syria's nuke program. Tearing it off the earth.

While Condi is on record as "advising" Olmert, to "wait."

Bush is on record as dragging his feet, when first advised by Israel, last Spring. That this had shown up on Israeli radar.

Gates and Baker, Botts and Moneybags, using powerful White House influence, told Olmert to run some very risky (and unnecessary) tests. First.

Israel complied.

Olmert's not talking.

Fires are burning Southern California, right now. And, the whole mishigas of what makes fringe lunatics on the right, happy, knows no pale.

I do expect, however, that among the choices, ahead, Bush comes to Waterloo. At Annapolis.

What Fred does now? He's stayin alive. He's in the game on his own terms.

And, "if" he wins the nomination? Just like Mitt. Hillary can do at least 50%. And, the pubbies lose the White House. That's just how things stand, now.

How good are these debates? Too many Americans aren't thrilled with the "dictation" they hear coming out of Dobson, et al.

And, yes. We live in dangerous times. Beyond the burning fires; other things are burning, too.

Posted by PersomFromPorlock | October 23, 2007 4:50 PM

One proposal of Thompson's you didn't mention that seems to me to be very important: making English the official language of the US.

Posted by LarryD | October 23, 2007 5:02 PM

So far, every place that has gotten tough on enforcing the employment laws, has seen a sudden, deep reduction in the local illegal alien population.

Every border region where a fence has been built, has seen a major drop in illegal border crossing.

This will work. Most illegal aliens will self-deport. The remainder will be a small enough number that they can be handled by law enforcement, and deported after serving their sentence.

Posted by syn | October 23, 2007 5:10 PM

Illegal Immigration=Slavery

'whom do you think "builds abodes"'

Well I hope they're people of legal standing who are afforded egual protection under the law of the land and not slaves who are denied justice because of cheapsakes who know how to take advantage of the status quo.

Also, I hope they're experienced at their craft and not some unknown picked up off the street.

Posted by GarandFan | October 23, 2007 5:11 PM

I take issue with the idea that self-deportation will take years if not decades. This arguement is along the lines of the liberals that 'there are too many here now, let's legalize them'.

People have an adversion to starvation. If they can't get a job, they won't eat. Yes, some will turn to crime, that will only force the spotlight more firmly on them.

At least Thompson has a viable plan to protect our national sovereignty. Unlike others who just expouse surrender to the invasion.

Posted by KW64 | October 23, 2007 5:16 PM

Fred's plan does not include the carrot of a guest worker program at the end of the enforce trauma. It should. That will help American busineses that really do not have millions of Americans available to fill the jobs the departing illegals leave. If they cannot, the economy will suffer.

Unemployment rates of 4.7 percent mean that sending 10 million illegal workers home will create a real labor shortage. You can fill those jobs by 1. economic decline, 2. higher legal immigration with citizenship to follow or 3. a guest worker program that can expand and contract along with the economy's need. I would chose option three.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 23, 2007 5:29 PM

Illegal Mexican workers are already returning to Mexico. In states such as Florida, Georgia and even in parts of Ohio, when illegals find they cannot work, they have a simple choice, join the criminal elements or return home and try to build a life at home. If we hadn't coddled them, used their cheap labor, exploited their cheap labor, skewed pay scales across our economy, and hadn't allowed charges of racism to be used time and again and allowed ourselves to be cowed by the same, this illegal problem could have sorted itself out years ago.

Thompson's idea of stopping federal discretionary funds from going to cities, counties, states and organizations that harbor illegals or offer sancturary to illegals is a good idea. Seems the only way to get anyones attention these days is to hit them in the pocket book. A lot of construction workers in this part of the country owe their lack of work to illegals who have flooded the local market...exploited slave labor, in reality...certainly not the American Way.

Posted by Stacy In Tucson | October 23, 2007 5:37 PM

The Captain is wrong (as pointed out by LarryD, Garand Fan and Coldwarrior 415)...

I live in Arizona and because of a tough new law that doesn't even go into effect until January, the illegals are leaving in droves.

Captain Ed, just getting tough makes the illegals leave. Right now, the ones in Arizona are going home or to New Mexico. If New Mexico gets tough they will go home or go somewhere else...

The bottom line is enforcement will work if we really get tough across the board...and build a fence!!!

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 23, 2007 5:57 PM

Why haven't the environmentalists made more noise about the trashing of the Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas border regions by the flood of illegals?

Abandoned cars, human waste, all sorts of refuse and garbage, all left to rot in a mostly fragile ecosystem. The area along I-8, in Arizona, for example...satellite photography of today compared with photos from ten years ago shows vast sweeping areas along the border that have been turned into wastelands, trash dumps. It looks a lot like downtown Mogadishu across hundreds of miles along the border.

If these environmentalists get all upset about the "potential" effect a border fence "may" have along the border, why haven't they paid more attention to the actual physical evidence of trashing along the border from illegals that constitutes a land mass larger than metropolitan Washington, DC? Or Detroit or Chicago?

This is something I thought was religion among the Dems...save the whales, help out the baby seals, save the landscape? We have to do it for our children, I think is the current mantra.

I have to wonder again and again exactly who in Congress sees MS-13, for example, as being here to merely find jobs and support their families?

Build the fence, while seriously tending to all the rest of Thompson's outline for illegals. Make this illegals problem a point of history, and soon.

Posted by Nessus | October 23, 2007 6:02 PM

I love the way Ed and other neo-cons use the label "nativist", which throughout history means "patriot". Only a money-hungry, foolish man who would sell his nation out for cheap labor, would use such a silly term as "nativist".

A "nativist" is one that puts his nation before others, just a like a man puts his family before others. So in the end, a "nativist" is a mature man or woman and not an "citizen of the planet". Laughing my ass off at such liberal rupublican, plantation owner mentality. Free trade, cheap labor - more, more, more!

Posted by flenser | October 23, 2007 6:11 PM

We cannot possibly make poverty here less attractive than the reality of poverty elsewhere

There seems to be a widespread misconception that the people of Mexico are starving in the streets and come here where they can get a crust of bread.

Mexico has a lower unemployment rate than America does. If we kick them out of their jobs here then they'll go home.

Normalization of some variety would allow us to quickly achieve transparency for the vast majority of illegals in the US

That statement is a redundant redundancy. Yes, legalizing the illegals will legalizes them. You keep missing the point.

They should not be legalized. They should not be rewarded for commiting felonies in this country. And the corrupt people who have breaking the law by employing them should not be rewarded either.

Still, as a plan, it exceeds most of what has been produced in this primary season.

That speaks volumes about how inane the primary season has been, doesn't it?

it addresses the issue with rationality

I can't say you have ever managed to do this yourself. Your determination to reward millions of criminals is very strange.

Posted by patrick neid | October 23, 2007 6:55 PM

Fred Thompson and his advisers read the Barbara Jordan report which she spent almost five years putting together. When these proposals were given to Bill Clinton he tabled it.

the Capt stated:
"However, some problems exist with this plan, not least of which the notion of attrition solving our current problems. Attrition will take years, perhaps decades, and will not drive the truly worrisome people from our midst."

Yes and no. The vast majority of illegals are single with no children. Once the jobs dry up or there are too many hoops to jump through they will leave immediately. Many have families at home(Mexico etc) and they need income. The married with children living here will definitely dig in and be supported by the larger Hispanic community. Its definitely going to get ugly. Its important to remember that the Hispanic community is north of 40 million--a very formidable legal force.

Posted by BoWowBoy | October 23, 2007 7:06 PM

Captain ....... Normalization-Schnormalization. I reserve my approval though .... till I see the small print.

We can muscle the criminals out soon enough ............ then those stragglers will get the message that jobs go to American citizens and those who emmigrate to the United States legally. The remainder will go back whether it takes 20 years or 30 years.

And the only opportunity in any plan should be the opportunity for American's to have jobs.

Besides Duncan Hunter's plan (who I don't believe has proposed any future immigration changes) ........this plan is the next best to Tancredo's.

Finally someone is able to mention illegal aliens as being a problem for this country ......... and not have to cower behind some veil of diversity and leniency.

Maybe Thompson will even force the Democrat Party candidates ........... to have even mention the word "illegal alins" .........??? I doubt it though ..........McRomney McCain Mc Giuliani will probably not even comment on Thompson's proposal ............ let alone the Democrat Party candidates.

Posted by Papa Ray | October 23, 2007 7:11 PM

If you dry up the jobs in enough cities, the illegals will move to other towns and communities. Yea, some might go back to Mexico or South America, but don't count on it being a large percentage.

Every one will have to have a bio ID for the Government to get a handle on who is who, who should be here, who is a criminal and who needs to be deported. Without it, it is a joke. IDs are available that look better than the originals, and they are cheap. Everything from Driver's liscenses to Birth Certificates.

Some will turn to illegal activities, just as they do in their homelands, others will work for peanuts and live on the run. Some will be caught, most will not be.

It will be just like the last time, and the time before that, except now we are dealing with close to 20 million illegals.

There will have to be some reward for them to do the right thing. What? I don't know, but I do know that most don't want to return to a dead end life where your life isn't worth a bottle of tequila and your women must whore to keep food on the table.

I know what I speak of. I have been living in Mexico North for over sixty years.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by Adjoran | October 23, 2007 7:23 PM

It's red meat for the enforcement-only folks, but with no practical chance of passage, and doesn't address the problems we face already with millions of illegals here (except by the utter fantasy of "employer enforcement," as if private non-professionals should be expected to do a better job enforcing the law than the federal government with its virtually unlimited resources). As such, it amounts to nothing more than pandering for votes.

Posted by Hugh Beaumont | October 23, 2007 7:36 PM

So what's in Freds plan that can't be tied up by a liberal judge?

Posted by amr | October 23, 2007 8:01 PM

As was mentioned in an earlier comment, there was the Eisenhower plan in the mid 1950s to remove illegal aliens to provide job opportunities for veterans, however it resulted in relatively few being caught and deported, but it instead set a tone that caused supposedly hundred of thousands to leave the US. The new law going into effect in Arizona in January will remove for 15 days on the first offense and permanently on a second offense the business license of a company if it has knowingly hired illegal aliens. From the few reports the media as put out, it is having a large impact on the illegal population in Arizona. Unfortunately, they only need to move to another US state.

I wish someone would ask the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates if they would support a similar national law. Something I hoped to present to Mr. Thompson via this site when questions were requested for him.

Posted by Jon Prichard | October 23, 2007 8:27 PM

This is a fairly simple common sense plan that makes all the sense in the world. It can pass through Congress if the climate is just slightly less pro illegal immigrant than now.

Those who say it won't solve the current problem of 12 million or so illegals currently in the country aren't seeing the larger picture. The main problem is a continuous uninterrupted flow of illegals that increases the total population exponentially year after year without any abatement.

Fred's plan eliminates the magnets and growth will stop in the short term while the current base 12 million will start returning home. In a few years the number may drop by half. That may not sound like red meat politics but its sensible. Dramatic affairs such as massive deportations tend to cuase secondary consequences that may be entirely bad for American citizens in the short term.

Capt. Ed and others use relative poverty between Mexico and the USA as the only 'market force' keeping illegals in this country even if they couldn't find work. While its true we can't make the USA more impoverished than Mexico, poverty isn't the only aspect of pursuing a decent life. Peace of mind, a secure job, housing, a sense of community and many other social aspects of a decent life factor in too.

When all of the major attractors are taken out of the equation what is left for the migrant worker? It can't be much of a life to always be looking over one's shoulder while dragging a family from town to town in search of breadcrumbs. At some point Mexico (or wherever) becomes the better option.

In truth all of these illegals are here for one reason, that is, they always got amnesty in the past for the transgression. The twelve million here came here with that expectation. If we take that expectation off the table along with jobs and make it harder to cross the border (not impregnable, just not easy) the situation will ease dramatically and may even solve itself. Its not fantasy, just market economics 101.

Posted by scot | October 23, 2007 8:35 PM

The psychologist in me tells me that we need to have both positive and negative consequences to effect serious behavior change. Something like the threat that if we catch you here illegally, you permanently loose the ability to ever come back under any circumstances. If you do return after being labeled persona non gratia, you go to supermax for 10 years and then get deported again. On the other hand, if you self-deport, you get a receipt as you leave that puts you next in line behind current legal applicants to earn a work visa to enter the country. You also get fitted with a tracking device, and have to check in every 90 days or you become "illegal" again, and we start the process over.

Posted by burt | October 23, 2007 8:57 PM

Thompson's plan is much better than the Captain's plan. I would join the English official language group. I would, also, do whatever is legally necessary to not allow people who are born here to automatically become citizens. If this requires an amendment, so be it.

Posted by onlineanalyst | October 23, 2007 9:23 PM

Call or fax your congresscritter to just say "NO!" to the Dream Act, Harry Reid's backdoor version of a very costly-to-the-law-abiding-taxpayer amnesty program.

Posted by Drew | October 23, 2007 9:26 PM

The only item it seems to lack (or was that #3?) is an organized, serious effort to deport ALL criminal illegals: those in jail or prison (at the end of their sentence unless their home country assures that they will serve their sentence in their home country), and all who have had a deportation order issued against them (no more ROR - take them immediately into custody and transport to their home country).

Posted by md | October 23, 2007 10:26 PM

One of the earlier commenters suggested making English the national language. I understand the sentiment but I don't think that will address the issue.

My family immigrated to US in 1970 from India (I was 6 years old at the time). Although learning English wasn't a major hurdle (my parents were well educated in English as well as a few native languages), I don't think it was the major factor of my family's integration into the American culture.

There was a desire on my father's part to come to the US. An opportunity arose when the American consulate unexpectedly approved my father's immigration application (my grand-uncle, my father and my uncles thought chances would be slim but nevertheless tried).

America was always thought of as the land to which to come. America was the land of opportunity. After a rough start, my father kept at it (he has a no-quit work ethic) and we eventually found our way.

At no time, that I can recall, did my father claim any injustice or unfairness even thru the tumultuous period for the manufacturing sector in the '70s.

Over the years we have learned what it is to be an "American". My sisters and I learned America's history and philosophy during our education. I humbly assert that our whole family (my uncles and cousins who also eventually immigrated to US) has contributed to American society.

We have maintained our Hindu heritage (as much as possible) throughout this time. Our community has not asked any governmental entity for extra privileges or assistance. We have formed organizations that we feel will help propagate our culture to our children.

However, we live in America. We understand its history. We are American citizens. As such, we are obligated to live as American citizens if we are to enjoy the benefits and privileges of America.

I share our experience only to make a point: we may be able to tighten the borders and control illegal immigration thru whatever means *but* that does not address what is happening after one immigrates (legally or illegally) to America.

If one has no desire to become part of America and what it means to be American, should that person come to America? Any nation has a duty to ensure that its culture and philosophy survives and indeed flourishes.

All citizens and immigrants must be taught, indoctrinated if you will, history and philosophy of America: all of it, good and bad. Puritans, witch trials, slavery, Revolution, founding fathers, Civil War, etc. Not just the events in a chronology but also ideas, morality, ethics, purpose must also be studied.

If something along these lines is not done, we'll indeed up with a "Hispanic America" and a "Chinese America" and a "Black America" and an "Indian America" etc.

Posted by Elais | October 23, 2007 11:20 PM

Why do Republicans keep bawling about 'Amnesty'? Republicans start foaming at the mouth about immigration and shriek 'Amnesty' at every opportunity.

Simple plan.

1. Accelerate naturalization process for current immigrants or grant them instant citizenship.
2. Start illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship.
3. Have Ellis-Island type stations instead of the 'Great Wall of Mexico' at the border. Get them started before they set a toenail on American soil.
3. STFU about Amnesty.

Whining about border security and enforcement is solving only half the problem.

Posted by treehugger | October 24, 2007 12:16 AM

Why do Republicans keep bawling about 'Amnesty'?

Because criminals do not make good citizens. DUH!

We owe people who broke our laws NOTHING, most especially the precious gift of American citizenship.

I'd happily take a million more immigrants like MD's family.

I wouldn't take ONE more like Elais.

Posted by The Yell | October 24, 2007 2:07 AM

"1. Accelerate naturalization process for current immigrants or grant them instant citizenship."

And when 4 out of 5 just don't apply?

"2. Start illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship."

And when 4 out of 5 just don't apply?

"3. Have Ellis-Island type stations instead of the 'Great Wall of Mexico' at the border. Get them started before they set a toenail on American soil."

And without the wall, what makes that station a chokehold?

"3. STFU about Amnesty."

You talking to me, or to the two million folks holding AMNISTA AHORA signs?

Many of these people are proud patriotic Mexicans who have no interest in renouncing Mexico for some foriegn land, any more than our ARAMCO engineers are going to become subjects of King Abdullah. They get full benefits in the shadows, they don't report as many taxes from the shadows, their kids get free education from in the shadows. Why step out of the shadows?

Posted by NavyspyII | October 24, 2007 6:42 AM

We had one of those motivational posters on the wall back when I was in the Navy. It said: Even eating an elephant is just a bunch of small bites.

The idea is that you cannot swallow the whole thing at once, you have to do it bit by bit. Or put another way, all large things are just a collection of small things.

This is the same situation with immigration. We cannot have "comprehensive" immigration reform, but have to do it in pieces. Border security to stop the leaks, then internal enforcement to bail out all the bilgewater that has collected. And as in bailing out the bilge, you will never get it all. But if we can reduce it to just enough to dampen the wood, rather than being flooded over our knees, we may yet stay afloat.

Wh HAVE to secure our borders, and get the illegals out of the country, or our economy is doomed. They are parasites, not symbiotes, and are draining our lifeblood.

We will have some economic pain during the proccess, plan on it. Prices on some goods will rise until they reach an actual market value, rather than the depressed situation we now have. But as with cancer, letting the disease sit undisturbed is only a deathwish. The solution may not be as harsh as Chemotherapy, but it will feel similar to us.

The big question is whether we have the will to see the treatment through, or if we will give in to the feeling that it is too harsh, and let the cancer spread.

the body of America is almost terminal, shall we live, or die as a nation? The choice is ours.

Posted by NavyspyII | October 24, 2007 6:50 AM

Once the enforcement leg is finished, or well advanced, we then begin to look at LEGAL immigration, and tailor it to suit our needs. This is the portion that most consider the guest worker provision.

We will need some people, but the difference is that WE set the criteria, and select whom we allow in, we don't allow them to self-select.

Maybe it's many years as a programmer, but illogical, unstructured, feelgood policiie will invaribly lead to anarchy, and the loss of sovreignity.

Besides, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing time, and time again, and expecting a different result. What were the results of the last few "Amnesties" we've promulgated?

Posted by Mark Cancemi | October 24, 2007 6:51 AM

Someone up there said,...

'whom do you think "builds abodes"'

You misspelled ADOBE!

And it is "Who" builds them.

But build a real fence, enforce the laws, remove incentives for illegals being here, and punish those breaking the law. Including sanctuary cities as FRED describes.

Posted by James Heine | October 24, 2007 7:46 AM

Agree with Native Son!

Posted by Neo | October 24, 2007 9:03 AM

eliminate the "magnets" that draw illegals to the US -- relatively easy border crossings, jobs, and sanctuary cities.

This isn't all the magnets. Perhaps a ban on federal monies going to services for illegals, except legal immigration services of course. Currently, there are a raft of court rulings requiring a whole range of social services to illegals, not to mention the services provided by the states in part using federal monies.

Posted by burt | October 24, 2007 9:21 AM

md, I enjoyed your post but I don't think it addresses my reasons why the US should have an official English language. It is a responsibility of US citizens to be well informed so as to vote and vote intelligently. I assume there are Hindi newspapers that are available in the US and are relevant to US politics and culture. I do not believe that they are as comprehensive and diverse as the English language papers about these subjects. I think it is fine that you preserve your Hindu culture and that you may read Hindi publications. I also think it is necessary that you think about US history and philosophy and that as a means to that end you are conversant with English. Obviously you do so.

I know that many US citizens do not conform to my preference for an informed voting electorate. However, if "America was always thought of as the land to which to come," as you state, it is reasonable for America to choose who is allowed to come here, and to have the expectation of enhancing America.

Thanks to people like Hitler and Stalin the US took in many people from Europe. Some of these people did enhance the US. This was especially true in the sciences. I large number of American Noble winners came here because of those fellows.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | October 24, 2007 9:39 AM


The idea behind Official English is to make it harder for immigrants to do as you and your parents have NOT done and refuse to assimilate.

Also, to be very frank, there are some foreign cultural traits -- like acceptence of official corruption -- that we don't want to see preserved. Breaking the linguistic hold of 'the old country' is one way of doing this.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | October 24, 2007 9:50 AM


Sorry, hit 'post' instead of 'preview'.

As far as illegal immigration is concerned, Official English at least rolls up the welcome mat a little bit. I agree, it won't solve that problem but throwing a little sand in the gears won't hurt -- and it will do a lot to assuage the sense of losing control that many of us feel when we have to "press one for English."

Posted by flenser | October 24, 2007 10:50 AM

The price tag for amnesty makes all the "pork" and earmarks seem like small change.

It's very curious that many self-proclaimed "fiscal conservatives" obesss about the pork and yawn with indifference at amnesty. Either they are not very bright or their fiscal conservatism is a pose.

Posted by md | October 24, 2007 12:47 PM

To burt and PersonFromPorlock:

Any country has the right to choose whom to allow to immigrate into that country.

I totally agree that English must be a requirement for citizens and immigrants of America. America conducts its official business in English and as such it must fall upon all residents, especially of course immigrants, to learn English. Practically, it would become so unmanageable to publish official government documents in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hindi, German, etc. By publishing documents in these other languages, one encourages the separation of peoples rather than cohesion.

As to creeping corruption because of its (sometimes rampant) existence in the native country (and by extension other "habits"): this is where the assimilation (thru primary and secondary education, citizenship classes, entrance exams) process comes into play. The goal must not only be legal immigration but *also* a society where American values are shared by those who wish to live in America.

As to publishing newsletters or newspapers in Hindi, Spanish, or Vietnamese, I hope the implication is not that they should be outlawed. For many first generation immigrants, there of course is a fondness for the "old country". Reading some publications in the native language serves as a connection to the country of one's birth.

However, if the intent of the foreign language publications (or broadcasts) is to promote divisiveness or sedition then obviously this is a serious problem.

I don't think a total abandonment of the old culture is required in order to be American. This eventually works itself out as generations continue. I don't need to convert to Christianity in order to be American. I don't need to be conservative or liberal or libertarian to be American (although I've swung to the center-right over past 5 or 6 years [thanks to Captain Ed and other blogs] - but that's a comment for some other blog post :-). As long as I uphold the laws of the country and, further, at least have a minimum understanding of what America *is* and its ideals, I can be a very productive member of American society.

So, I think it is not unreasonable for every immigrant to learn English and expect that official business will be conducted in English. It should be a requirement. It will certainly help with cohesiveness as one nation. But, again, more than this is needed. If we do not act in the best interest of the country (whether from conservative or liberal point of view), the country may indeed become fractious. This applies to any country to which one immigrates.

Posted by arch | October 24, 2007 5:57 PM


My son's father-in-law is an American whose family were Gugerati. He came to this country legally in the 1950s as did many of his Indian friends now living in the Basking Ridge - Bernardsville NJ area. These men are lawyers, doctors and investment bankers, but above all they are Americans. Their stories are all the same.

They arrived at LaGuardia with two things - the $8 currency allowed by the Indian government and the phone number of an Indian sponsor in the NY area. (Even then, $8 would not pay cab fare into the City.) The new arrival would call his contact and stay with this family until he had landed a job and accumulated enough to get a place of his own. There was only one rule: A pledged to reciprocate and host a future immigrant.

My son's wife's older brother recently married the daughter of another prominent Indian-American family. We went to the Hindu wedding - an all day affair. None of us had any idea what was going on, but it was great fun. Later, they had a Catholic ceremony with Mark in his full dress uniform as a US Navy Commander.

At a bon-voyage dinner for my son's father-in-law in Basking Ridge, my dinner companion was the grand daughter of Mahatma Ghandi.

This is what immigration is about. Have we forgotten?

Posted by md | October 24, 2007 10:20 PM

To arch:

Yes! This is what immigration is about.

I hope I conveyed some of that in my comments.

I related our story as just one example (from among the millions from all over the world) and also how we integrated into American society as Americans. We do still have some attachment to India but we are still first generation. The attachment may lessen with my children and nephews and nieces who are native to America. However, that attachment in no way lessens my belief in the specialness of America. I want to see the ideals of America continue.

The fact that a Hindu ceremony was held means that it is still an important aspect of your in-laws' lives. This is the beauty of America. One can be Jew, Hindu, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Protestant, agnostic, atheist and still be an American (if one chooses to be so).

You are indeed privileged to meet and converse with Mahatma Gandhi's grand-daughter! I am jealous!

The story of your in-laws is similar to our story. My father is the youngest of the 3 brothers. When it came time to determine who should apply to the consulate, all 3 brother, my grandfather and my grand-uncle came to the conclusion that my father should be the one for various reasons. It is very safe to say that our family was definitely lower income living in a small remote (at the time) village. It seemed that luck was on our side when the consulate call came.

My hearty congratulations to your son and daughter-in-law and your new family members! I hope you partook in some Bhangra (dance) at the reception! :-) By the way, if I may and if I understand correctly, the spelling is Gujarati (we are also Gujarati [from the state of Gujarat]! :-)

May they live a long, happy, prosperous, and fruitful life.

Posted by steve poling | October 25, 2007 12:03 AM


what exactly did you have in mind here: "Attrition will take years, perhaps decades, and will not drive the truly worrisome people from our midst."

When I think of the "truly worrisome people" I think of people like the Beltway sniper and other illegal aliens with criminal records. Since the proposal calls for stricter enforcement of existing laws, I'd think existing laws already have provisions for the "truly worrisome" habitual criminal.

I also find "truly worrisome" the agents of foreign powers and organizations infiltrating this country with plans to conduct terrorism. I certainly don't see these people being "attritted out" of the country, but I would expect anybody without a history of pardoning terrorists to take action against these people quite apart from immigration bureaucracy.

So, I must be missing something that you intended by that phrase.

Posted by arch | October 25, 2007 4:39 AM


Sorry about the spelling error.


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