The original plan was to offer a point/counter-point treatment of the President's May 15th television address on immigration, similar to the contrived debate (below) between the President and George Washington on American Foreign Policy. But the recent Bush effort was not only shallow, it was so conceptually confused that it would have been to waste far too many bytes to try to clarify the speaker's thoughts, in order to respond to each specific vagary. Thus, we have elected to respond to the obvious underlying, if poorly or unstated, assumptions. Yet to be completely fair, we append the President's remarks in a slightly smaller type face, after the Menu that follows this article.
Before discussing the false premises, the President's shallow and superficial reasoning, we will make one obvious observation: The Southern border was already being overwhelmed during the Clinton Administration. President Bush's "watch" started five years, three months and twenty-five days before he announced this response to the problem. Early in that period, we were subjected to a vicious attack by foreign nationals, which should have resulted in an immediate emphasis on border security. There is no better excuse for the President's inaction during the interim, than there is reason now in his projected approach.
The first consideration in formulating a National immigration policy must always be the effect on the Nation involved. The very concept of a "Nation" distinguishes its members from the rest of humanity. It is a recognition of all that make a people unique; all that give them a sense of identity and continuity. Generally such involve not only common patterns of thought as to identifying characteristics, but a common history, a common struggle; shared victories, shared disasters, common lines of descent; a recognition of a common purpose, spanning many generations. This does not rule out a Nation's having adopted sons and daughters; but the essence of the Nation is none the less an ongoing ethnic reality, into which those adopted must be accepted.
To discuss the question of immigration without an effort to define the ongoing Nation into which would-be immigrants would seek acceptance, is akin to discussing experiments in nuclear physics without ever defining atomic or sub-atomic particles. Unfortunately, since Mr. Bush's nomination in a Republican Convention which featured more overt outreach to minority cultures than even recognition of the mainstream culture of the Founding Fathers, he has never shown any comprehension of what was actually unique about America. Yet the speech appended below shows more than a lack of comprehension. It reveals the almost pathological embrace of an absurd mystique. Or how else can one interpret the President's penultimate assertion: We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they are from, because we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans--one nation under God.
Just how is this magic supposed to work? Are we even permitted to ask? And just what does this President mean by "country?" If he means the inhabitants who consider themselves Americans, than it would seem to matter to mere rational beings, whom is admitted to a group that has the "genius for making us all Americans." If he refers simply to geography, perhaps it would not be too much to inquire just how the mechanism, to which this President trusts the future of America, is supposed to operate? And does this God, to whom he refers, bear any relationship to the Biblical God, worshiped by most other Americans, who directed Man to honor his lines of descent?
While the President may honor all the heritages of the earth, those heritages are certainly not interchangeable. In his classic Eighteenth Century treatise on the Law Of Nations, considered authoritative by the Founding Fathers, Vattel defines the concept of the Nation:
Nations or states are bodies politic, societies of men united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by the joint efforts of their combined strength.
Such a society has her affairs and her interests; she deliberates and takes resolutions in common; thus becoming a moral person, who possesses an understanding and a will peculiar to herself, and is susceptible of "obligations" and "rights."
That President Bush would allow millions, who entered America illegally from an ethnic and cultural background very different from that of traditional America, to become citizens, with no better rationalization than reference to some mystical process by which he claims America makes others over, surely takes our declining political institutions to a new low. While we have addressed specious appeals to a perceived economic interest in allowing the continuation of present immigration patterns in both Chapters 14 & 15 of the Conservative Debate Handbook--even citing Jefferson's justification for the Louisiana Purchase on the basis that it would create a buffer against the Hispanic culture of Mexico; --and have responded to a nonsensical pretense of human interchangeability in Chapters 15 & 16 of the same, as well as in other essays; we would tighten the focus, here, to the inadequacy of this President's presentation of the issues.
The only clue, which the President offered as to the mechanism by which he foresaw hordes of Mexican Mestizos being assimilated into American life, was afforded by the paragraph in which Mr. Bush discusses the "Melting Pot" and the concept of "assimilation," as the fifth point in his program. The President, or his writer's, belief, that a "Melting Pot" provides some sort of magic mechanism to assimilate any wave of new arrivals into the American population, obviously underlies the proposal to set millions, presently in America illegally, on the path to citizenship. Unfortunately, he does not address how that mechanism is supposed to work. But, then, "Magic" is not always explainable.
Those of us who operate in the real world, however, can readily observe the process by which previous waves, both of immigrants and settlers, have "assimilated." Whether one calls the process a "melting pot," "assimilation" or cultural evolution, it has never fit the fantasy implied by the President's rhetoric. The fact is that, even after three hundred and ninety-nine years of European White settlement, whatever movement there has been towards a common American culture, consistent with the prevailing values of the Founding Fathers, has been far over-shadowed by the persistence of quite diverse cultural traits; the history, a veritable affirmation of the obvious fact that people create their social culture; not culture, people.
The classic, clearly American example, of course, would be the original dichotomy between the Virginia Cavaliers and Massachusetts Puritans. While 19th Century Virginians were still pursuing the gracious lifestyle, characteristic of the culture that many had left in England or Scotland in the 17th Century, the 19th Century descendants of the New England Puritans had moderated their original denominational religious intensity. Yet there was far less movement towards the more tolerant, relaxed culture, which characterized Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, than towards a new secular dogmatism. The heirs of Cotton Mather were no longer hanging Witches, they were demanding Abolition, Prohibition and Woman's suffrage, across the whole of America.
One can go community by community across the continent, and see obvious examples of the persistence of traits consistent with those of the cultures of origin. What assimilation has taken place in the great Eastern cities with large infusions of foreign born over the past five to six generations, has not been so much to the culture of the Founding Fathers, as to the cultures the new immigrants brought with them. Thus New York City has been a hot bed for Leftist thought since the end of World War I, dominated by those who brought Socialist values from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Thus Greater Cincinnati, which received large Conservative German infusions during the 19th Century, remains markedly more Conservative than the Milwaukee area, which received a large, far more Socialistic German immigrant infusion in the same era. By contrast, parts of the American South, which have the largest percentage of older American stocks, still adhere most closely to the values and heritage of the Founding Fathers.
None of this is accidental. It, once again, reflects the fact that people create cultures--cultures that reflect their natures--not the other way around. Can America neglect the point, and rush blindly into accepting huge numbers, who come from a very incongruous background, as future citizens; putting mystical faith in a "Melting Pot" or in our "country's genius for making us all Americans?" The President's quack political medicine is a prescription for the death of any recognizable America. Ultimately, this comes down to the wisdom of a Thomas Jefferson versus the errant folly of a George W. Bush.
The President fares no better in the field of economic analysis.
What is too little addressed, in the current debate over immigration, is the fact that we are predominantly discussing waves of manual labor, pouring into America at a time when there are increasing dislocations resulting from a move to more capital, and less labor, intensive business, as the technological revolution proceeds. From a long term view--even putting aside the ethnic incongruity of those whom the President would put on the path to citizenship--these are hardly immigrants who would provide the type of skills most likely to be in demand in tomorrow's market.
Nor does the disrespect for laws and borders, demonstrated in an illegal entrance, suggest that these are people likely to embrace the emphasis on individual rights to obtain and pass on property to one's heirs, so significant to the Anglo-Saxon world since Magna Carta. Those businessmen, rubbing their palms over the prospects for cheap semi-skilled labor, need to reflect a bit more on the long term prospects of their own heirs and descendants, in the not so brave, new America, which their complicity would encourage.
Yet the most glaring economic fallacy, in the President's approach, comes under his second point, which implies a need for millions of immigrants to "meet the needs of our economy." While one often hears comments suggesting that a removal of working aliens would cause a major dislocation in the American economy, this is actually part of a circular and very dangerous misconception. We have limited space, limited natural resources. While one can certainly expand the Gross Domestic Product by expanding the population, the "benefit" is often illusional. That business expansion--including in the instant case the expansion that has taken place over the last decade or so by reason of the huge illegal migration, does not necessarily benefit the settled population. While many American businesses may obtain an immediate increase in their "bottom line," the hidden costs of that expansion are less easily perceived.
There is, of course, a drain on space and irreplaceable natural resources. There is also an increase in the cost of education and other social services, as well as for law enforcement amidst people whose very presence is testament to a scofflaw attitude. But the greatest of the hidden costs is not that of increasing gridlock in American traffic patterns, nor even in an earlier than necessary exhaustion of America's natural resources, nor in the cost of social services provided to new residents. The greatest cost, from the standpoint of an American tradition of which the President shows no comprehension, will come in the destruction of that cultural integrity, which formed a major motivation for much of the original settlement of America by those whose descendants we have called the "Founding Fathers."
For whether you refer to Virginia Cavaliers, New England's Pilgrim Fathers, Huguenots in the Carolinas, Quakers in Pennsylvania, English Catholics in Maryland, or any of a host of other peoples, it was largely to obtain new lands where each could preserve their unique cultural identity and principles, free of the threats and challenges in the Old World, which impelled each to risk so much to come to lands that we now call "America," in the first place. We hear a deal of talk about the "American Dream" from the mindless, pseudo-intellectual, swamp into which the seat of our Federal Government has devolved. The ultimate tragedy is that few have either the vision or comprehension to understand it; fewer yet, the courage to explain it. It was never so much homogenized pap about human oneness. It accepted "diversity," but under radically different terms than those implied by contemporary rhetoric. Its legacy, today, is not celebrated but betrayed!
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Good evening. I have asked for a few minutes of your time to discuss a matter of national importance--the reform of America's immigration system.
The issue of immigration stirs intense emotions--and in recent weeks, Americans have seen those emotions on display. On the streets of major cities, crowds have rallied in support of those in our country illegally. At our southern border, others have organized to stop illegal immigrants from coming in. Across the country, Americans are trying to reconcile these contrasting images. And in Washington, the debate over immigration reform has reached a time of decision. Tonight, I will make it clear where I stand, and where I want to lead our country on this vital issue.
We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system. For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border--and millions have stayed.
Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals ... strains state and local budgets ... and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems, yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. They are a part of American life--but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.
We are a Nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We are also a Nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals--America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair. So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear objectives.
First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign Nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration--and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.
I was the Governor of a state that has a twelve-hundred mile border with Mexico. So I know how difficult it is to enforce the border, and how important it is. Since I became President, we have increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to 12,000 agents. The men and women of our Border Patrol are doing a fine job in difficult circumstances--and over the past five years, we have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America illegally. Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that. Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we will have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my Presidency.
At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has the best technology in the world--and we will ensure that the Border Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our border. Training thousands of new Border Patrol agents and bringing the most advanced technology to the border will take time. Yet the need to secure our border is urgent. So I am announcing several immediate steps to strengthen border enforcement during this period of transition:
One way to help during this transition is to use the National Guard. So in coordination with Governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities--that duty will be done by the Border Patrol. This initial commitment of Guard members would last for a period of one year. After that, the number of Guard forces will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come online. It is important for Americans to know that we have enough Guard forces to win the war on terror, respond to natural disasters, and help secure our border.
The United States is not going to militarize the southern border. Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend. We will continue to work cooperatively to improve security on both sides of the border ... to confront common problems like drug trafficking and crime ... and to reduce illegal immigration.
Another way to help during this period of transition is through State and local law enforcement in our border communities. So we will increase federal funding for state and local authorities assisting the Border Patrol on targeted enforcement missions. And we will give State and local authorities the specialized training they need to help federal officers apprehend and detain illegal immigrants. State and local law enforcement officials are an important resource--and they are part of our strategy to secure our border communities.
The steps I have outlined will improve our ability to catch people entering our country illegally. At the same time, we must ensure that every illegal immigrant we catch crossing our southern border is returned home. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we catch crossing the southern border are Mexicans, and most are sent back home within 24 hours. But when we catch illegal immigrants from other countries, it is not as easy to send them home. For many years, the government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived, the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called "catch and release," is unacceptable--and we will end it.
We are taking several important steps to meet this goal. We have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more. We have expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time. And we are making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws. As a result of these actions, we have ended "catch and release" for illegal immigrants from some countries. And I will ask Congress for additional funding and legal authority, so we can end "catch and release" at the southern border once and for all. When people know that they will be caught and sent home if they enter our country illegally, they will be less likely to try to sneak in.
Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.
Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers--and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border. It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here.
Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law--and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.
Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully--and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration. Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant--and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently--and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record. I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law; to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship--but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I have just described is not amnesty--it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.
Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one Nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams ... they renew our spirit ... and they add to the unity of America.
Tonight, I want to speak directly to Members of the House and the Senate: An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together--or none of them will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The Senate should act by the end of this month--so we can work out the differences between the two bills, and Congress can pass a comprehensive bill for me to sign into law.
America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue--and as we work it out, all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.
I know many of you listening tonight have a parent or a grandparent who came here from another country with dreams of a better life. You know what freedom meant to them, and you know that America is a more hopeful country because of their hard work and sacrifice. As President, I have had the opportunity to meet people of many backgrounds, and hear what America means to them. On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. When asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him, and the chance to become an American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.
We will always be proud to welcome people like Guadalupe Denogean as fellow Americans. Our new immigrants are just what they have always been--people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom. And America remains what she has always been--the great hope on the horizon, an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land. We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they are from, because we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans--one Nation under God. Thank you, and good night.