AMERICA'S NEED FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM:
THE EVEN GREATER NEED FOR THE POLITICAL WILL
TO TAKE EFFECTIVE ACTION TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM
By Thomas G. Tancredo
This particular individual happens to be chairman of a House committee that has oversight in a particularly important area of concern for us all and has some responsi- bilities that overlap into the immigration area. He asked me what I thought we needed to do about the the particular problem we were facing--the problem arising from the fact that we have a huge number of Americans who are concerned about immigration and the need for immigration reform and there is growing popular political pressure for the Congress do something about our porous borders and about the problems that exist as a result of the fact that, today, more than two years after the terrorist attacks of Sep- tember 11, 2001, the events that transformed America and the world in many ways, we have still not been able to come to grips with one aspect of this problem and, though all of us in the U.S. Congress know this, we seem paralyzed and unable to do anything about the immigration problem.
I said, "well, okay, I have some ideas about this matter."And we went on to talk in- depth about what we thought should be done. Underline the word "should" in "what ... should be done." There was general agreement between the two of us that much stronger action needed to be taken, that our borders are porous and something had to be done in order to control the number of people coming across our borders, north and south, particulatly the number of people coming into the United States without our per- mission, illegally entering our country for reasons sometimes benign, sometimes not so benign. We talked about the things that should be in place. Once again I emphasize the word "should," in this instance, "the things that should be in place."
The things that should be in place include the protections that any country would take, some of the undertakings that we as Americans should simply say we should look at as being the most basic kinds of precautions--precautions that any government effectively performing its essential functions would undertake in order to protect its own citizens. We talked about the need for internal security. We talked about the need for Ameri- cans to devote more resources to trying to identify aliens who are in this country, ille- gally for the most part, and sort out those who are here for purposes of doing us great harm. And we went through a number of related problems that we have because there are involved here many interests, many political interests that have developed and complicate the issue of simply securing our own borders.
We talked about the amount of narcotic drugs that are being brought into this U.S.A., illegal drugs that are being brought into the country as a result of the fact that cartels, especially in Mexico, have realized that their ability to transport illegal drugs into this country is great and the profits are enormous. We talked about the harm that is being done as a result of that kind of activity--harm that is well documented.
We talked about the fact that there are national security problems involved with porous borders and that terrorists, potential terrorists, are able to come into the United States, able to work within the U.S.A. because there are so many millions of people living here illegally that terrorists can blend into particular ethnic communities and immigrant populations within ther U.S.A. and thereby make it incredibly difficult for the Depart- ment of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to identify, monitor, and in- terdict the terrorists.
Then we talked about the circumvention and violation of our national immigration laws by some American state and local governments--about the fact that America's real im- migration policies are being constructed by states, cities, and counties throughout the United States, that states and localities are developing and implementing policies and laws that actually aid and abet the criminal activity we call illegal immigration.
And all of this devolved into one common theme. Our borders are porous and we need to do something about that. As amazing as that sounds, it is still a difficult concept for many people in the Congress and in the executive branch of the U.S. government, ap- parently, to get. But our borders are porous, and there are consequences as a result of this situation.
I relate to you this conversation because of the way it ended. There was, as I said, agreement between the two of us as to what the problem actually is. There was also an agreement between the two of us as to why we cannot solve the problem, and that is what is amazing to me and the reason why I wanted to start off my discussion this even- ing with telling you about the conversation. At one point in the conversation, my col- league said to me, "you know, we do not have the political will to secure our own bor- ders." That is, of course, something I have said many times on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is something I have said in speeches I have given all over this nation. It was a tremendous encouragement and morale booster hearing this fact stated by another House member, a House member who is not identified as being part of our Immigration Reform Caucus or as someone who is very high profile in the immi- gration policy area, but nonetheless, someone who a very respected member of this body, in fact, a House committee chairman. He said, and I want to say it again, "we do not have the political will to secure the border."
What a statement! It is an absolutely truthful statement, a statement we all know in our heart of hearts is accurate, but a statement that we do not want exploited, a statement that we do not want to be made public. However, it is already public knowledge. We may think we are the only ones here that know this dirty little secret, but I assure you that Americans know and understand that there is this problem--this very serious problem, this combined immigration and national security problem.
Many millions of Americans understand that there is a problem, but perhaps they do not know why the problem exists. People ask me all of the time. I get many letters, emails, and calls to my office. Over and over again the question is, why can't we do something about this immigration and national security problem?
Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, we talk about the problem. There are contless news reports about the fact that we cannot control our own borders, about the fact that people are coming across the borders illegally and that we choose to do little, if anything, about it. People say to me, why is this happening, Con- gressman? I can only tell them what my colleague said to me. We do not have the po- litical will to secure our borders.
While we lack the political will to secure our borders, I assure you, we have the tech- nical ability to do so. We have the resources. We have the technological attributes necessary, combined with human resources required, to secure our borders. We can do it. It is a fallacy, it is a canard, to stand up in front of any group and say that it is im- possible to tighten and make secure our borders, that we must figure out a different way to defend America, a way different from and instead of defending our borders. When people make thia argument, what they are saying is this: I choose not to defend and secure our border, because there are political ramifications that I fear. This is what we should read into any statement given by any politician, whether they be members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate, or whether they be candidates or would-be candi- dates running or aspiring to run for elective offices of government at the state and local as well as the federal level, since this issue has reached that point where it is now a state and local as well as national issue, since we have states and local communities in the nation that are trying to develop and carry out their own immigration policies, sometimes because they are attempting to fill the vacuum created by the lack of in- volvement by the U.S. national government and sometimes because they are trying to pander to political constituencies and special interests that they believe will help them retain or obtain political power.
Recently, we have seen something happen that points this up in a way I guess I never could have thought of. The old adage about truth being stranger than fiction really ap- plies here. If I had come to the House floor, say, 3 or 4 years ago, and said, "Mr. Speaker and members, I can envision a time when states will actually be doing things like giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens," What have have been the reaction to this statement? What if I had said that I think there are going to be states actually issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens--issuing driver's licenses, which, in many respects, are, and many times have been referred to as, the "keys to the kingdom" in America?
Of course there would have been derision. There would have been a response we all are familiar with, that is, all of us who are concerned about the immigration issue. Those of us who are concerned about this issue have, in the past, faced that kind of reaction by the press and even by our colleagues. They would have said, "you are such a radical on this issue, you are so off base, you are anti-immigrant, you are racist," all of those epithets that they throw out every time we talk about immigration and immi- gration policy. "Never could this happen; no state in the nation would ever give illegal immigrants the keys to the kingdom." Yet, that is exactly what is happening. Several states in this nation have done this, the State of California being the most recent to do it..
In California, Democratic Governor Gray Davis, so desperate to try to avoid recall and retain political power, signed the bill allowing driver's licenses to be granted to illegal aliens residing in California--a bill that he had twice before vetoed, and vetoed with a message that said something like this:
But he forgot all of those veto messages, since he was in the process of being recalled by the people of the State of California. Struggling--unsuccessfully, as it turned out--to retain his office and political power, he changed his tune and said:
There is only one reason Gray Davis did that, of course, and that was to gain the votes he hoped he would obtain in order to be retained in office. This is amazing to all of us. Most Americans look at this and understand it for exactly what it is: political pandering in its worst form, and yet it has happened. And I hope that we can look at this little vis- ual example of the problem: A California driver's license for a gentleman named Osama bin Laden, 525 Main Street, Los Angeles, California; date of issuance: Septem- ber 11, 2001. This is a dramatic, perhaps some would say overly dramatic, statement I am trying to make here, but this is what it takes perhaps to bring some people to their senses. Can we keep this scenario from actually happening?
Illegal immigration poses a threat to the United States in many, many ways, certainly in a national security sense. In a recent FrontPageMagazine.Com article by Steve Brown and Chris Coon, the two authors said:
How does this constitute a breach in homeland security? State-issued driver's licenses allow people to open bank accounts, make certain purchases, and obtain jobs. In their article, Brown and Coon stated:
I am a Representative of the State of Colorado, specifically the 6th. Congressional District. An incident occurred in my district that is often referred to as just the "Colum- bine incident." Columbine High School is in my district, not more than a mile or so from my own home We all know the tragic story about the two teen-age boys who took guns into a school and killed 13 students, and then the two adolescent perpetrators died at their own hands. There was an outcry throughout this nation, and there was a concern raised about the availability of guns to the two individuals who committed this heinous act. Time and again, I have heard people come to this floor to protest against the availability of firearms.
Now we have a situation in several states, where it has been made enormously easy for someone who is here in the country illegally to obtain a firearm. What does that mean? It means that we have nothing against which to bounce off this information, as the statement I read here a minute ago indicates.
Someone presents a driver's license. They may have a criminal record in another coun- try. They may have obtained that driver's license illegally. They may have used a false identification to obtain the driver's license. They may have gone to the Mexican Con- sulate and obtained a matricula consular ID card. This is a document that is handed out by the Mexican government to those Mexican nationals living in the United States il- legally.
In California, as a result of the bill that was signed by Governor Gray Davis, a person who has obtained one of these matricula consular cards can then go and get a driver's license. So even if one is, in fact, a citizen of the United States but a felon who has a long, long history of transgressions, he can obtain this matricula consular card in a dif- ferent name and become a different person--just like that. He can take his card to the motor vehicle division in California get his driver's license, and then go buy a gun. Since there is no record of who he really is, he can obtain this weapon.
Why have we not heard from the antigun lobby? Why have we not heard from all those people who raise such hell when we talk about the possession of firearms in America, and even try to prohibit or severely restrict the possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens? But they do not say a word about the fact that we have just opened the door to millions of people who are here illegally and to potentially millions of people who would do harm to the nation if they were able to obtain firearms. Why do not spokesmen for the antigun lobby complain about the fact that illegal immigrants and potential terror- ists are now able to get a driver's license in one of several states, the most important of which is California.
Not too long ago, I held a press conference here, and I had with me several family members of people who were killed in the terrorist attacks on our country on 9/11. Families for a Secure America convened in Washington, D.C., to air their grievances over the continued lax immigration policies supported by lawmakers concerned only about their careers and by lobbyists with specious ulterior motives.
At the press conference, a spokesman for the group stated:
This was a statement made by Tom Meehan, who went on to say:
Lynn Faulkner, who lost his wife in the World Trade Center, pointed to politicians "both Liberal and Conservative, Republican and Democrat,'' that continue to push for open borders and loose immigration standards. "Though the specifics of the 9/11 at- tacks may have been unknown to the politicians listed above'' (prior to this he listed the members of Congress whom he was concerned about) and to Bill Clinton and President Bush, they had to know that additional attacks would follow and that the only way to keep terrorists ... out of our country was to screen the people who seek to enter,'' Faulkner said. "Therefore, we say without any reservation that the members of Con- gress, the current President, and his two predecessors contributed to the murder of our family members and the thousands of other victims of September 11.''
In a callous attempt to save his political career from recall, California's leading Demo- crat, Governor Gray Davis, recently signed, as I said earlier, legislation allowing ap- proximately two million illegals to obtain driver's licenses, legislation he had twice be- fore vetoed.
With the stroke of his pen, while blatantly pandering to the Latino vote, Davis quashed his state's border with Mexico. Far from a single-handed act, he was aided and abetted by the Democratic Party-dominated California legislature, particularly by bill author, Senator Gil Cedillo. Cedillo has been pushing this legislation for years under the weak premise that new licenses will have increased incentive to obtain auto insurance cover- age, in turn improving highway safety. Cedillo is an ardent member of the taxpayer- funded MEChA, which is a "racist Latino student movement [in the U.S.A.] demanding [Mexico's] annexation of all of [America's] southwestern states'' and which is as close to a Hispanic Ku Klux Klan as I can possibly imagine, an organization to which, by the way, Cruz Bustamante, Lieutenant Governor and number two Democrat in California, belongs. Cedillo once said, illegals have a right to stay in the U.S.A. because "they were here first.'' Illegal aliens from Mexico, he says, have a right to stay here because they were here first. Given the illegal constituency's interests, there is little doubt who they will pull the lever or mark their ballots for in the elections at both the state and national levels.
"I'd like to thank Governor Davis because, up until early September of this year, how many people in this country knew that illegal immigrants were getting driver's li- censes?' asked Families of Survivors member Grace Gottschalk, whose son was mur- dered in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. "Here and there, you would see something in the press occasionally, but when Governor Davis used this as a po- litical tool, passing a bill that he had turned down many times before, doing an about face because he was now in jeopardy, it shows you how political this is and how immi- grants are being used."
This move has not gone unnoticed by those tasked with securing our nation from the threat of terrorism at home. Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary of Border and Trans- portation Security, recently said:
California State Senator Tom McClintock, a Conservative Republican and a recall candidate, said the only reason for issuing state-approved identification to illegals is "to undermine our immigration laws."
"What Gray Davis did by signing this bill is put politics before the people of the State of California,'' California Assemblyman Tony Strickland said.
California Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy said:
The California Republican Assembly--not to be confused with the California Assembly, the lower chamber of the California state legislature--has issued a call for a referendum to stop the new driver's license ordinance. They hope to obtain the required minimum of 373,816 signatures of registered voters within the prescribed 90-day period to put the proposal on the March, 2004, ballot.
California Republican Assembly President Mike Spence commented, "To lower the standard for getting a driver's license in the era of al-Qa'ida and the era of identity theft is an attack on every citizen of California.''
The California Republican Assembly has started a Web site to support the petition drive for putting on the ballot the proposed repeal of the driver's license law.
Again, it is incredible that this is happening in California and other states. It is incredi- ble that many states now give all kinds of opportunities and benefits to people who are living here illegally--benefits that have heretofore been given only to people who we call citizens, or at least legal residents, of the United States, the benefits of citizenship, like having the state taxpayers pay to subsidize your child's education, both in K-12 schools and in institutions of post-secondary and higher education. Now many states say let us do this for illegal immigrants as well, extending to the illegals not only the benefits of public education, but also the tarpayer-funded beneits of social services and health care--and, yes, even the benefits of voting in elections to fill government offices.
What is left? What is left to define the idea or the concept of citizenship? What does it mean? Has it any value whatsoever? If everyone in this country, regardless of their legal status, can obtain all of the benefits afforded to those people who are here legally, then what does it mean to be a citizen of this country?
The distinction is erased, and that is the hope and desire of many of the people who actually push these kinds of issues. It is to eventually come to a point where borders are eliminated, where people who are here can obtain all of the benefits of citizenship by simply being a resident, legal or illegal.
There are cities in this nation that provide people who are here illegally with the benefit of voting. College Park, Maryland, comes to mind immediately, not too far from here. They call themselves sanctuary cities, and you can vote if you can prove you are a resident of the city. The Mayor of the District of Columbia not too long ago proposed such a thing for residents of the District of Columbia. And, of course, Gray Davis has done exactly the same thing statewide that each sanctuary city has done citywide, Davis having done this by giving residents of the State of California driver's licenses, since, under the motor-voter law, illegal aliens residing in California and holding Cali- fornia State-sssued driver's licenses can vote in California's state and local elections.
So, what does it mean when we use the word "citizenship'"? What does it matter wheth- er a person residing in the U.S.A. is a citizen or an alien, and if an alien, whether he is residing in the country legally or illegally?
A recent flap developed over the fact that the Bureau of Immigration Enforcement has come up with a new oath of citizenship. I think they recalled it because there was such a negative response on the part of many people. They were re-writing the oath of citizen- ship.
But let me suggest to you that the concern about the actual words that are used in that oath, is misplaced. That concern is misplaced because the oath will eventually mean nothing. The oath will mean nothing because citizenship, the concept of it, the reality of it, will mean nothing.
When we talk about immigration and immigration reform, many people think that we are just talking in terms of jobs, the loss of jobs, which, of course, is a real concern. Many other people think we are just talking about our fear that uncontrolled immigra- tion will result of our nation being balkanized, being divided up into all kinds of sub- groups, of victimized groups, that refuse to become part of the American mainstream, that do not even wish to integrate into our society.
But this debate about illegal immigration is even broader than that. I believe with all of my heart that massive immigration into the country, both legal and illegal, combined with this cult of multiculturalism that permeates our society and tells people that they should not assimilate into the American mainstream and they should keep their own language and their own political relationship and political affiliation with the country of their origin, is a dagger pointed at the heart of America.
It is as dangerous as al-Qa'ida; it is as dangerous as any terrorist out there who is plotting to do something terrible to this country. It is dangerous because, if we do not know who we are as a nation, if we are divided up into all these camps, into these groups, victimized sub-groups in America, then we will have no strong desire to save our civilization and our way of life. American national identity and American national unity will dissolve because we will no longer have a common national culture. We will not know what it is to be American; we will not know who we are; we will not know what holds us together as a society; we will not know what binds us together as a nation. In fact, there will be nothing holding us together as nation. Instead of being a single na- tion, we will be a multitude of nations. The United States of America will have disinte- grated into numerous small nation-states quarrelling with and periodically going to war with one another, therefore being easy prey to larger and militarily stroger predatory, imperialistic states.bent on military aggression and conquest of smaller and weaker nation-states.
We can all revel in and enjoy the differences that we have in this country, the sub-cul- tural distinctions that give us such a rich texture as a nation. We can enjoy it. I cer- tainly do. But that is a far cry from disassociating oneself from this country and actually seeking only the economic benefits that it can provide, while simultaneously trying to connect oneself to, or, I should say, retain one's connections to, countries of origin, which, if they were so great, if those countries of origin are so wonderful, one wonders why millions of people have sought to leave them.
In a September 15. 2003, Los Angeles Times article, Claire Luna stated that "painted on the cheeks of children waiving grandly from a balcony and planted in women's hair- dos, Mexican flags were on display everywhere Sunday in Santa Ana as tens of thou- sands of people showed pride for their home country."
Showed pride for their home country. What does that mean? What is their home coun- try? Do they not live here? Do they not obtain the benefits of living in this land, the United States of America? Do they not call themselves Americans? Do they not think of themselves as Americans?
Now, if I asked you what is your home country, if I asked anybody in the Congress what is his or her home country, if I asked any American citizen out there, what is his or her home country, what is the likelihood that anyone would answer: "some country other than the United States of America?"
Now, I am only a third-generation American. My grandparents came here from Italy. But never, ever, ever, have I thought of myself as anything but an American. Never have I thought of my home country as anything but America.
In her article in the Los Angeles Times, Clair Luna continued:
Their liberty, if they are living here in the U.S.A., was won by people who sacrificed their lives in the fight against Great Britain in the War of the American Revolution (1775-1783), the war in which the people in thirteen of Britain's North American colo- nies fought for and won their independence. That is how the liberty of all persons dwell- ing in the U.S.A. was won. The liberty that Latinos in the U.S.A. enjoy was obtained and made secure, not because of anything that occurred in the Spanish colony of New Spain or the country of Mexico during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but be- cause of what happened in British North America during the late eighteenth century.
Luna said: "The parade helps reaffirm our pride in our love of Mexico."
Well now, Mexico may be a wonderful country. I will not dispute the contention that it is. And I do not suggest for a moment that anyone from Mexico should forget about Mexico or not understand that they have that heritage. But there is something happen- ing here that deserves our attention, because this is what I am talking about, about an attempt being made to divide our country into numerous sub-groups, or ethnic nation- alities, an attempt being made to balkanize the U.S.A..
Luna's article went on to say:
So what Roberto Mundo is saying here is that many, many of the people who were on the street were here illegally, but they do not care anymore about the fact that they are here illegally. They are not afraid, they are not concerned, because they know that the U.S. government does not have the will to enforce U.S. immigration laws.
There is a book that I would certainly suggest should be mandatory reading for every American citizen. It is called Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, by Victor Davis Hanson. I will just read something from the cover:
And I certainly agree. Mexifornia: A State of Becoming.
California is a state that represents what every state in the American federal union, and every segment of American society, is becoming. Each is in some stage of becoming transformed. To some, even in the Congress, that is a good idea. That is something to which they look forward, a country that no longer understands its roots, a country that is divided, a country that is balkanized, a country that is just a place of residents and not of citizens, a country that no longer has a common national culture, a country that is no longer a single united nation.
That is where we are going. That is where we are headed. And most Americans know it. And they ask their representatives in this government to do something about it. When they ask me why we cannot do something about the situation, or why we ignore the problem, I have to tell them that there is no political will to secure our own borders.
It is a shameful fact. It is a fact I wish I did not have to state. But it is the truth. I hope it will soon change.
Still More on Immigration & Illegal Aliens
Thomas G. Tancredo is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Sixth Congressional District
of Colorado. Congressman Tancredo presented the foregoing statement as a speech from the floor of the House of Repre- sentatives.
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