Sunday, April 09, 2006

No easy answers on immigration conundrum

Mark Steyn
No easy answers on immigration conundrum
April 9, 2006

Here's my immigration "compromise": We need to regularize the situation of the 298 million non-undocumented residents of the United States. Right now, we get a lousy deal compared with the 15 million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented American community. I think the 298 million of us in the overdocumented segment of the population should get the chance to be undocumented. You know when President Bush talks about all those undocumented people "living in the shadows"? Doesn't that sound kinda nice? Living in the shadows, no government agencies harassing you for taxes and numbers and paperwork.

Go ahead, try it. In Michelle Malkin's book Invasion, she recounts the tale of two fellows who in August 2001 pulled into a 7-Eleven parking lot in Falls Church, Va., in search of fake ID from the illegal-alien assistance network that hangs around there. Luis Martinez-Flores, who'd been living here illegally since 1994, took them along to the local DMV, supplied them with a fake address and falsely certified they lived there. The very next day, the two guys returned with two pals of their own, and used their own brand-new state ID on which the ink was not yet dry to obtain in turn brand-new state ID for their buddies. A couple of weeks later, all four of them used their Virginia ID to board American Airlines Flight 77 at Dulles Airport and plowed it into the Pentagon.

Think about that. From undocumented illegal alien in the 7-Eleven parking lot to lawful resident of the State of Virginia in just a couple of hours. Wow. Say what you like about Luis Martinez-Flores, but he runs one efficient operation.

By comparison, say you've got two kids under 5, and you'd like to bring over a nice English nanny to look after them. Name of Mary Poppins. Good references, impeccable character. If you apply now, there's a sporting chance the process may be completed before your children's children are in college.

Given that the new immigration "compromise" bill retrospectively approves all the millions of people who've been through the super-efficient Luis Martinez-Flores immigration system but without doing anything to improve the sclerotic U.S. government immigration system, maybe it would be better just to subcontract the entire operation to Senor Martinez-Flores and his colleagues. It would certainly be cheaper. The extensive Undocumented American support network manages to run it out of the back of the car from a parking lot without a lot of air-conditioned offices full of lifetime employees on government pensions, and given that the net result is exactly the same people who'd be living here anyway, why not go with the lowball bid? Legal immigrants to the United States can only envy the swift efficient service Messrs. Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar received outside that 7-Eleven.

All developed countries have immigration issues, but few conduct the entire debate as disingenuously as America does: The president himself has contributed a whole barrelful of weaselly platitudes, beginning with his line that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." True. They don't stop at the 49th parallel either. Or the Atlantic shore. Or the Pacific. So where do family values stop? At the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you're an American and you marry a Canadian or Belgian or Fijian, the U.S. government can take years to process what's supposed to be a non-discretionary immigration application, in the course of which your spouse will be dependent on various transitional-status forms like "advance parole" that leave her vulnerable to the whims of the many eccentric interpreters of U.S. immigration law at the nation's airports and land borders.

Here's another place where family values stops: The rubble of the World Trade Center. Deena Gilbey is a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor: On the morning of Sept. 11, instead of fleeing, he returned to the building to help evacuate his co-workers. A few days later, Mrs. Gilbey receives a letter from the INS noting that as she's now widowed her immigration status has changed and she's obliged to leave the country along with her two children (both U.S. citizens). Think about that: Having legally admitted to the country the terrorists who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act on having facilitated his murder is to add insult to grievous injury by serving his widow with a deportation order. Why should illegal Mexicans be the unique beneficiaries of a sentimental blather about "family values" to which U.S. immigration is otherwise notoriously antipathetic?

How about "the jobs Americans won't do"? Most of them would be more accurately categorized as the jobs American employers won't hire Americans to do -- that's to say, in a business culture ever more onerously regulated, the immigration status of one's employees has become one of the easiest means of controlling costs. I see no reason why this would change, and given that, as a matter of policy, U.S. illegal-immigration law is not enforced by the U.S. government, it's hard to know why private employers should do it.

Meanwhile, U.S. immigration is cracking down on classical violinists. Don't ask me why. Presumably, Brahms' violin concerto falls into the ever dwindling category of jobs Americans will do. At any rate, the Halle Orchestra of Manchester, one of England's great orchestras, has just canceled its 2007 concerts at Lincoln Center. Why? Because all 80 musicians plus the 20 support staff are required -- under new "homeland security" regulations -- to be interviewed personally at the U.S. Embassy in London before each visa can be issued. They can't go en masse on the tour bus: They have to make individual appointments stretched out over several weeks. And they can't go to the local U.S. consulate in Manchester because -- and this detail is worth savoring five years after 9/11 -- the consulate's computers cannot handle the biometric data. The orchestra worked out that in train fares and accommodation it would cost about $80,000 to get the visas and decided it would rather cancel the tour. The good news is that Lincoln Center subscribers don't have to worry about the tuba player having plastic explosives packed down there. The bad news is, if a rogue tuba player ever breaks through the system, Homeland Security won't be able to e-mail his data back to the U.S. consulate in Manchester for a background check.

We're now expected to believe that this system will be able to stop hassling 68-year-old cello players long enough to process an extra 10 million-plus immigration applications, and that furthermore an agency that keeps no reliable records of legal entry into the United States will somehow be able to determine on the basis of utility bills whether this or that undocumented alien falls into amnesty-eligibility category.

Sure, believe that if you want to. It'll be good practice for swallowing the amnesty for the next 40 million circa 2025.

© Mark Steyn, 2006
Copyright © Mark Steyn, 2006


At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen...Classic example of inefficiencies of big government. The programs of the last 50 years have been a disgrace to the average American. If the federal government limited itself to "...PROVIDE for the common defense, PROMOTE the general welfare...", then the vast majority of Americans would be better off.

Unfortunately, Congress (and the White House) is only concerned with service of themselves. Matters not whether its Dems or Reps, they only answer to themselves and the party.

Until the average American begins to be concerned more with their government than who wins American Idol, we will continue to suffer as a nation.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Crystal said...

Great post! You hit all the major points and it is so pathetic the way the INS is run, that agency needs a complete overhaul. My husband came to US from Yugoslavia on a student visa and then we married in 2000. Well, he is still waiting for citizenship and it took more than 5yrs for the greencard to be processed, because after 9/11 there was a backlog created. Anyway, it makes me angry that the illegals get a step up while legal people must wait nearly a decade to be processed, and I'm happy that people are addressing this but unfortunately the politicians have forgotten.

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