What has the Bush Administration offered? Simply, a finger in the dike solution at best. A plan which effectively comprises 2 core components: 1) More border guards and now even fences, both physical barriers to an underlying economic issue, and 2) A Temporary or Guest Worker program, punctuated by penalties for employers employing non-registered illegals.
That solution (?) is akin to an attempt to merely treat symptoms if not outright ignore a disease, certainly not cure it. Even the treatment does not address some key symptoms. The real question is how to cure the problem. The answer is not Mr. Bush's approach but rather the Mexican Amnesty Citizenship (MAC) Plan.
In analyzing the Bush Plan, beefing up the border patrol and building fences won't work for a variety of political and practical/purposeful reasons. Politically, these do not create better relations with the Mexican government; in fact actually worsen them. Those critically collaborative positive relations are central, pivotal and absolutely essential to the creation of any true solution (cure). The old adage "good fences make good neighbors" works when parties want to war, not when they need to trade and functionally co-exist.
Some say "well the Israelis are building a fence too". Yes, but for an entirely different purpose national security, whereas ours is for economic security. There are indeed those that will argue ours is for national security too to keep out Al Qaeda Inc. I would promote that as a ridiculous and uninformed pipedream pure fantasy. This country, when factoring in the almost ten thousand miles (ex Alaska) of its CONUS perimeter boundaries including its east and west coasts, its northern border with Canada, and southern boundary comprising Gulf Coast and Mexico, is plain and simple incredibly porous and easily penetrable, and therefore a fence in part or in whole is not practical even if it made purposeful sense which it does not. If you include Alaska, arguably the most porous of all US boundary access points, then add in another 5-8,000 miles (including the Aleutian Islands) to safeguard. While we have a "Coast Guard" made up of wonderfully loyal, patriotic and professional American men and women, it is certainly not all encompassing as respects having the necessary assets or peoplepower to literally cover the waterfront - not anywhere close. Its underwhelming size in the face of an overwhelming challenge, suggests The Coast Guard's assets and budget are grossly inadequate to confront the threat, mandating serious review and re-evaluation. Evidence the inherent weakness further, for example the huge numbers of Cuban and Haitian refugees successfully making their way to our shores over the last few decades, and on very predictable transit paths. In fact the service in its current limited size and strength, might better be named the "Partial Coast Guard".
Perhaps the basis for a further OpEd, a byproduct recommendation here would be to give the Coast Guard a real, tangible home and relevancy. Remove it from the paper tiger Department of Homeland Security and immediately put it in the Department of Defense (DOD) with a real budget to support the required real mission. Specifically, within the DOD under the Department of the Navy, where it normally resides during time of war. Since we've indeed formally declared war on terror, then why not now?
One would naturally then ask these anti-terror fence proponents "why would Al Qaeda ironically then choose the strongest weak point (1,000 mile Mexican border) in an overall even weaker, if not defenseless 15-18,000 mile boundary security system to access the US?". The answer is it almost certainly would not. Therefore, given the swiss cheese like porosity of our borders, the only way to keep Al Qaeda out of the US is to catch them before they try to get in i.e. via superior intelligence gathering; requiring a huge new investment in and functional integration of the intelligence community. See prior OpEd on Matrix Warfare:
We must look at the Israeli fence motive (anti-terror) as one repelling proactive antagonists bent on physical destruction of another and therefore in a very different way and purpose than the one we really seek with ours (anti-illegal immigration) to repel reactive (no other choice) worker opportunists. In sum, the Israeli fence, comprising the two phase total of 135 miles or so is vastly different than a 10,000 mile or more wall around the U.S (ex Alaska) or even a 700 mile partial one across the boundary with Mexico. Their's is both purposeful and practical, while ours is neither.
The other and perhaps capstone aspect of the Bush Plan being the "Temporary or Guest Worker Program", which I'll take the liberty here to coin as the "Citizen Light" or "Citizen Maybes" Program, with the caveat that instead of citizenship, illegals merely register as a temporary visitor and any employer hiring a non-registered would face penalties. Interestingly though however, employers now are breaking the law by hiring illegals. Why therefore would any further formalization without real accountability of employers, coupled with formal citizenship and legitimate ability to deny public, health, utility and social services to non-citizens as would be the case with true citizenship, cause any behavior change whatsoever in both illegals and employers. Too, there is no incentive for an illegal to register under the Temporary Worker program, and even if they do, how do you ensure they return to Mexico 6 years at mandated program registration termination. The Bush Administration's Guest Worker program is in effect treating illegals much like a hotel treats a guest who responsibly checks out on the departure date and pays their bill. Unfortunately, these are not hotel guests. They are economic refugees with no incentive to pay their bill and/or leave.
So why is the Bush Plan not the right or even a good plan?
As respects building fences and increasing border security infrastructure; aside from worsening relations with the Mexican government, if we build it, they (illegals) will (still) come. Regardless of how many border guards or miles of fences we build, or toothless registration programs created, this problem will continue so long as illegals still see an economic arbitrage opportunity, or rather the economic disincentive to remain in Mexico and instead risk life and limb to come here for something perceived as better. Most are likely connected to relatives, friends and communities now well established here, meaning geographically, the U.S. is then really their truly considered home and therefore they won't leave regardless of any change in the economics. The Bush Plan does not recognize this fundamental fact - that the illegals have defacto moved here permanently. They personally consider it their home of (unofficial) record. If so, why fight it (akin to pushing rope) and instead leverage that to generate some good - create some official privilege and responsibility structure with them through formal citizenship to reap some substantive benefit for our nation.
At best, we get 20 million new taxpayers. At worst, treating them with respect through citizenship and realizing public and social services will no longer be provided in a good Samaritan fashion, will likely get a significant number to fulfill their citizen responsibilities. Think of it this way, even if citizenship gets but one illegal to responsibly pay but one dollar in federal income tax, isn't that better than what the country receives now in return which is absolutely nothing.
On the broader aspect of those future economic refugees planning to come, nothing in the Bush Plan creates the necessary "economic incentive balance", an incentive neutral situation, one where the Mexican worker is indifferent whether they are in Mexico or the US. This too then becomes the point at which NAFTA will make sense to exist and move beyond being merely the North American "Facade" Trade Agreement, to really functionally supporting free trade. If such economic incentive indifference can be created, than endemic Mexican national pride in the individual will appropriately be the deciding and overriding personal factor to remain in country (Mexico) to contribute to the motherland as would be the case of any other responsible citizen in the world with respect to their own country.
Bottom line, implementing the Bush Plan leaves us defacto exactly where we are, with the gut wrenching debate on a real solution being conveniently postponed; noting that debate postponement or delay being the real goal of the Bush Plan. The Administration's plan merely overlays an aesthetic layer of "solution paint" on "problem rust", without first doing what any successful paint job first requires - "proper preparation". Inevitably, the Bush Plan will be a failure because it did not embrace the 7P's of success Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Not to add salt in the wounds, well maybe a little, I would add the 7P's were not embraced by the Administration going into Iraq either and we now bear the nasty legacy of that improper planning.
In the short term, the Bush Plan simply generates voter sound bite appeal to postpone the same ugly debate today for another 6 years and in doing so, migrating the migraine to a future Administration. The Democrat Congressional leadership is now however positioned and poised to provide and aggressively pursue the real solution NOW. It is a 2 step plan, called the "MAC Plan", outlined as follows:
Step 1: Address Current Illegals - Offer/Provide Amnesty Citizenship. Using a derivative of the old saying "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", it's time to say "if you can't beat 'em, join us". Extend an olive branch to the 20 million or so by some estimates, already here, by offering Amnesty Citizenship (i.e. real U.S. citizenship) with a quid pro quo understanding that to receive this highly sought citizen classification, each illegal will have to formally identify themselves and register as such (as a citizen) and agree to both pay income taxes and bear citizenship responsibilities like everyone else. If any refuse the gift of citizenship under these parameters, then unlike as is the case now, any and all public, health and social services will be legitimately (and uniquely now - morally) denied. Any US employers an/or companies then found employing or providing services to non-MAC illegals will be severely penalized up to and including business operating license removal and/or jail time to the principles. This requires real bite in employer accountability; periodically several should be publicly rebuked (made examples of) to show the new accountability has teeth to dissuade all others from further violating the law.
Step 2: Address Future Economic Refugee Migration: Provide "Consultation Services" to the Mexican Government to help create an environment or perception of economic indifference in the mind of the worker, as a means to stem the inflow of new illegals. Work closely with the Mexican government to help it address its serious economic/social weaknesses/issues to eradicate the economic disincentive for its citizens to remain and instead as is the case now, head north, by creating employment/social/economic incentives for them to (want to) remain (in Mexico).
In accomplishing this step, the Democrats to now promptly request a joint (bipartisan) Congressional/State Department "Mexican Economic and Immigration Study Group", with "real (authority) bite" (unlike the Iraq Study Group), to assess and develop a constructive proposal to the Mexican government outlining an economic/immigration fix/assist plan on a no charge, partner focused/oriented basis. Consider it an investment to secure a huge return drastically curtailing, if not ending "economic refugee migration" into this country. If this good faith, mutually beneficial offer is refused by the Mexican government, then determine economic trade penalties to create the right incentive for it to recognize the correct answer when told, and begin to constructively collaborate on a solution. It's time to turn the Mexican government's arguably blind eye on the issue into caring embrace and tangible action. We should accept nothing less.
With the MAC Plan in place, we then declare victory on the issue and move on. There is no other solution. Deportation, fences and/or non-citizen based temporary worker registration schemes, which many thoughtlessly argue is (are) the solution(s) is (are) in short, naive, non-sensical, unworkable, non-plausible and on the extraordinary scale necessary - patently impossible; therefore not the solution(s) and deserving of no place at the table when discussing rational options/solutions.
It's time to turn the illegal immigration problem into an economic solution - and with that the added benefit of creating a more level free trade playing field and an accompanying long overdue free trade success story for our country and its legitimate citizens.
Boiling it all down, illegal immigration is an incredibly messy and unpleasant problem with no magic bullet answer that will have everyone jumping up and dancing in the aisles. Instead, we are left with but three clear, yet difficult choices, with one clearly better than the others:
1) Do nothing and nothing changes
2) Pursue the Bush Plan and nothing changes (except relations with the Mexican government worsen)
3) Pursue the MAC Plan and we:
- a) legitimize (legally and "morally") denial of social and public services,
- b) begin a process with the Mexican government to stem the future inflow of economic refugees, and
- c) get much needed income tax revenue into federal and state coffers, where heretofore we've received absolutely none; revenues which can then be steered to help communities/areas hardest hit these last few decades by costly illegal immigration.
I would challenge anyone to not agree the best, albeit very difficult to digest both socially and politically, is door number 3. The MAC Plan, employing the 7P's is the (only) answer.
.....but if you have a door number 4, let's hear what's behind it.