POROUS BORDERS, MASSIVE IMMIGRATION,
ILLEGAL ALIENS, & MULTICULTURALISM:
PROBLEMS, DANGERS, & COSTS
By Thomas G. Tancredo
I believe with all my heart that there are massive implications of massive immigration, both legal and illegal.
Some of the implications may be very good, some may have value, and some may be very, very bad. As the body that is charged with the responsibility for being, perhaps, the foremost marketplace of ideas in the country, it behooves us in the U.S. Congress, to at least talk about the issue of massive immigration and its massive implications.
And I suggest that we talk about the issue because I know that America is talking about it, America around the water cooler, America around the unemployment line, America across neighborhood fences, America is talking about this, and America is worried about this issue.
The American people are worried about many things, and they are accepting of many things. The people, I think for the most part, look at immigration as certainly I do, as being something that has been beneficial to the American nation, that has provided for us a diverse population and culture that certainly is the envy of the world in many re- spects and has been immensely rewarding to us as a nation. It is a rich environment in which we all can exist and prosper.
If you feel that way in your heart, as I do, then it is difficult to lead us into the discus- sion of another aspect of the issue, and that is a far more disconcerting aspect of mas- sive immigration, not just immigration, but massive immigration on a scale which we have never, ever, experienced before, but which we are now experiencing, at a most unauspicious time--a time when we are going through a peculiar cultural phenomenon in the United States.
I refer to this phenomenon as the culture of multiculturalism. It is a phenomenon that has overtaken us. It is a philosophy peculiar in many, many ways, and peculiar, I think, to many Americans. Nonetheless, it has taken hold among the elite in the country, the academics, the media, and certain other groups within the United States political establishment. These elitists see America, and in a broader sense Western civilization, as something that they have to be ashamed of.
Such persons see the values of Western civilization as being nonexistant. These per- sons, who I would call cultists in the pursuit of the agenda of multiculturalism, see Western civilization as nothing of value and, for the most part, something to be dis- counted. They actually talk about it in the most negative terms. They continually sug- gest this idea to our children and youth in the public schools and to those in the gener- al adult public who still pay any attention to what is said in the mainstream national media, e.g., what is said on commercial television. Those who still pay the slightest bit of at- tention to such forums may, in viewing their news and other programs, think to them- selves maybe there is not anything really of value in America and Western civilization.
There is the very real danger that children and youth, constantly bombarded by all this televised negative and unpatriotic garbage, as well as similar messages in the public schools, will, grow up learning only the most negative things about the United States of America and about Western civilization and begin to lose any real connec- tion to the goals, aspirations, and ideals of America--the goals, aspirations, and ideals that were exemplified in the Constitution of the United States, that were articulated by the people who founded this country, and that, for over 200 years, were the goals, values, and ideals to which and around which we all rallied. I fear that, in a way, we are losing this kind of connection.
I know this is somewhat esoteric, I know that this is not the typical kind of discussion that is held here on the floor of the House of Representatives, but I ask that we en- gage in this discussion, because I believe the pertinent issue is both meaningful and important to us as a nation to discuss and debate. The simple question is who are we? Who are we?
Samuel Huntington, who is a well-respected historian and social scientist, has written several books. The one that I recently read is entitled The Clash of Civilizations. Huntington is coming out with another book relatively soon, and I am looking forward to it. It is entitled Who Are We? It takes a very in-depth look at the issue multicultur- alism.
Huntington suggests that we are being Balkanized in the United States, and in much of Western civilization for that matter. We are being Balkanized into subgroups, subcat- egories, hyphenated categories as something-American. We are being pressured into disconnecting from traditional American ideals, values and ideas--those that we could call Judeo-Christian in nature, the precepts of Western civilization. The disconnect from traditional American ideals, values, and ideas is dangerous, and we should not be doing it.
I certainly agree that there, again, are implications to this kind of phenomenon that are worthy of our discussion.
Beyond that, we have to think about what massive immigration means in the context of the growing multiculturalist movement in the U.S.A., especially when immigration has changed so dramatically over the last 50 to 60 years, particularly in the last couple of decades.
In the past, certainly when my grandparents, and perhaps yours, came to this country, they were encouraged in many ways. Certainly, there were all kinds of discrimination that my grandparents faced. I am sure every wave of new immigrants confronted a new set, or maybe an old set, of discriminatory tactics. But even in the face of those obstacles, they were able to overcome them, succeed in their economic pusuits, and move on with their lives. And they did so for a variety of reasons. Certainly, there was some in- ternal desire to do so.
I remember, distinctly, my own grandparents talking about the fact that we should never, ever, think of ourselves as anything but Americans. We should never really connect to the old past. My grandparents all came from Italy. Although they were certainly proud of their heritage, they wanted to disconnect from the past and connect to a new culture. They wanted to be Americans in every sense of the word. So much so that, as I grew up, I never, ever, thought of myself as anything but an American.
If someone were to have said to me, what is your home country, I would have said, well, the United States of America. What is your home state? I would have said, Col- orado, and thought, how silly to ask such a question. But that is how I grew up. That is what I thought of as my heritage.
My grandparents were forced to do other things. They had to work, whether they wanted to or not. They had to work because, of course, there were no options. They would either work or they would starve. There was no welfare. There was no social service net to save them if they were to fail. They had to rely upon their own labor because they had few other skills but the labor they brought with them, the brawn, if you will.
They had to rely upon family and friends, and they had to do something else that was incredibly important. They had to learn English. They were sort of forced into it. I do not know how willingly my grandfather learned the English language, how devoted he was to the study of it, but I do know that it consumed him in terms of the time he would try. Certainly my grandmother would tell him, you have to try harder and you have to learn to speak English. (Actually, she would always say, you have to learn to speak American.)
In the process of learning to speak American English, my grandparents were becom- ing part of a greater society, a greater culture, and they were integrated into that greater society and culture, again, overcoming the obstacles that they faced because of the discrimination--the discrimination which they certainly did face, and which, as I say, every other group of newly or recently arrived immigrants in this country faced. In being forced to work for a living and learn English, my grandparents and other im- migrants of their generation, were forced to actually integrate, or assimilate, into the American mainstream.
Today, because of this cult of multiculturalism that permeates our society, we set up obstacles to assimilation of immigrants into American society and its common national culture. What we tell people today is they should not connect with America, with our national culture, with American and Western civilization. We tell people that they should remain separate and distinct, in separate enclaves and retain their own lan- guage and retain their political and cultural affiliation with the country of their origin. We tell them not to come into American mainstream, that there is nothing of value, and, there- fore, they should essentially stay separate, all in this quest to make people feel at home or certainly make people feel that Western civilization offers them nothing of any consequence, and, therefore, this separate and distinct set of societies that we are developing in the U.S.A. has greater value.
Not too long ago, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times that I remember ex- cerpting parts of and reading them here on the House floor. The article was about an event in Los Angeles--the celebration of Mexican Independence Day. According to the article, there were thousands and thousands of people on the streets of Los Angeles, all with Mexican flags, and all experiencing the joy of talking about and praising their Mexican homeland and cheering, as they went by, the flags of their Mexican states. I remember thinking to myself, their homeland? Their homeland? What is their homeland? Is it not the United States of America? What is now their state? Is it not California?
We all have pride, as I have said, in our heritage, but there was something peculiar about this article, I thought, because its focus reflected what I am trying to describe here as a problem in this country--our desire to ignore everything that would pull us together as a nation and to, in fact, accentuate all the things that split us apart.
From my point of view, as I have said, it is disconcerting to say the least, and I worry and wonder about what this means for America. Although I certainly will be the first to tell you I do not have all the answers, I am well aware of the fact that this is a cultural phenomenon that deserves a great deal of attention. A lot of very important scholars should study it and think about it, but is it not something that we should think about superficially, or just a little bit. Should we not give some thought to what this means to our nation? Should we not then think about what kind of immigration policy we should establish in this country?
There are those among us who would rather sweep all of this aside, saying it is all too highbrow, too esoteric. Who wants to think about all that stuff? It does not matter. It is just grist for Social Studies and Social Science textbooks.
Okay. Forget about it. Let us talk about other more mundane but certainly dramatic aspects of massive immigration into this country, both legal and illegal. Let us talk about money. Let us talk about costs. Let us talk about the fact that today, in the United States, we expend far more money as taxpayers in the infrastructural support necessary for those people who have come here both legally and illegally than we ever obtain from those same folks in terms of the taxes, quote, they pay. I say `"quote" because many pay no taxes whatsoever, due to our peculiar system, the system we have developed over a series of years. It is a big difference, a very big difference, when seen in the light of and compared to the situation my grandparents faced.
As an immigrant, one comes to the United States and really does not have to work. But if he does work and earns a small amount of money, we will pay him in the form of something called the earned income tax credit. Many, many immigrants, both legal and illegal, thousands in fact, hundreds of thousands by the latest count, actually file income tax forms for one purpose, to obtain the earned income tax credit. They file income tax forms, not to pay taxes, because they do not pay taxes for the most part. They do not make enough money, but they will claim a certain number of people as dependents. Even when they work here illegally, they still file income tax forms.
In this connection, we found evidence of recent illegal-alien traffic in what are called pick-up sites--places throughout the desert in the Southwest where illegal immigrants gather. As they come across the border on foot, they gather at certain areas to be picked up by some sort of vehicle--a truck or a car--and taken into the interior. These pick-up sites sometimes are places where literally thousands of people will have gathered over a period of time, and the sites are strewn with lots of trash and tons of human waste. Among all the litter indicating a recent illegal-alien presence, we found plenty of IRS forms.
As we were going through one of the pick-up sites, I happened to look down, and I saw IRS forms laying on the ground, and I picked them up. I still have them in my office, and I will never forget what I discovered. One guy had filed his income tax, using a fake Social Security number, but received, as we found out later, after checking it out, a check from the U.S. Treasury. He filed an income tax claim that he had made $7,800 in the course of the year. He listed five dependents, all of whom lived in Mexico, but were given taxpayer identification numbers by the IRS. (All you have to do is request a number for a dependent, whether he exists or not, and who knows whether the informa- tion provided is true, if the purported dependent is in a different country.) The illegal immigrant filed the form claiming five dependents in another country, using their ITIN numbers, and stated that he paid $94 in taxes on the $7,800 he earned, or claimed he earned. On the form, he claimed $3,800 in earned income tax credit.
We do this for people. This is part of who we are, but, applied to present-day immi- grants, it changes the whole idea, the whole philosophy, the whole phenomenon of immigration into this country. Because we provide all this assistance to immigrants, rather than reserving such benefits to U.S. citizens and longterm legal alien residents, immigration into the U.S.A. has changed dramatically from what it used to be.
So, as I said, forget about all of the cultural implications of massive immigration in the contemporary multiculturalist context, whether or not you think the implications really exist, as I have described them. Think about the actual costs to the United States, to the taxpayer of the United States. We are encouraged to keep open borders and allow illegal immigration into this country because many members of Congress believe in the concept of cheap labor, the idea that businesses should be able to hire the cheapest labor possible, and if you get such cheap labor from aliens who move across the border illegally, so be it.
While many Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are interested in cheap labor for businesses, most Democrats are much more interested in the votes that may accrue to them by the increase in the number of people who are here in this country as immigrants, either legal or illegal. The differing partisan motives have the combined effect of creating a very big problem--a problem in addition to the general problem of immigration. Because of so much congressianal opposition to any effective action to deal with the very critical problem of massive immigration in a multiculturalist context, it is extremely difficult to actually do anything about the problem.
It is very hard to stop massive immigration, or stop the problem from getting even worse than it is. It is hard to actually address the problem and reform immigration when we have got these two pressure groups--the partisan political pressure group on the Democratic side of the aisle and the cheap-labor pressure group on the Republi- can side. And I say all the time cheap labor is only cheap to the employer. It is not cheap to the American public. It costs us greatly. It costs us an enormous amount of money to provide the infrastructure for those people who are here working for very low wages.
Not only do we find that there are tax implications for us in terms of just the money that we will pay somebody for being here and having a low income, but there are the costs for schools. There are the costs for highways. There are the costs for hospitals and health care in a broader sense. All of these things, of course, are charged to the American taxpayer.
I would suggest that, if for no other reason, we have a legitimate cause here, a legiti- mate concern based around the fiscal issues presented by massive immigration. Our opponents will say, well, these people come, they work, they provide value. Again, they do work, they provide value, mostly for employers who oftentimes exploit them, who oftentimes use that labor, pay them less than even minimum wage, refuse to give them benefits, and, in many ways, make their lives something close to those of inden- tured servants.
While it seems to me that we have a legitimate interest in immigration reform, let's sweep that aside momentarily. Let's forget it for a moment. Say, okay, there is no cultural issue I care about listening to, and there is no fiscal issue that concerns me. Think about national security. Does that matter to anyone in the House of Represen- tatives? Should it matter to anyone in this body? Should it matter that our borders are porous? Does it matter that we have absolutely no control over who comes into this country? We do not know who they are. We do not know for how long they are here. We do not know for what purpose.
To the credit of people like Asa Hutchinson, whom I admire, he is trying his best to get the U.S. government to gain some degree of control over the immigration process. Moreover, we are working to devise better mechanisms to actually identify people who are coming across the border at our ports of entry. We are giving them cards, but, unfortunately, there is no hardware, no machinery, available at ports of entry to actu- ally scan these cards and to get the necessary information. A lot of people now have cards that carry some information we call biometric identifiers, and that is good, and I am happy. However, the ports of entry are tiny, tiny pebbles that we have placed in the huge river of immigration. At the ports of entry, we may have a better sense of who is coming across, and we may be doing a better job, but at every place between those ports of entry, unfortunately, it is still "olly olly oxen free."
I flew over the port of entry in Nogales not too long ago, and it was a great metaphor for what I am saying. We looked down. Here was the port of entry with a line of cars, maybe a mile deep into Mexico, waiting to come into the United States, everybody being checked. However, Nogales being a very flat desert area and over which we were flying in a helicopter, we were able to look down see what was going on miles around. It was ironic, to say the least, that not more than a mile on either side of the Nogales port of entry where everybody was being stopped and checked, you could watch people walking across the border into the U.S.A. Sometimes, they were simply driving off of a road in Mexico and coming into the United States through our national park down there, Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.
Today, Organ Pipe Cactus National Park looks more like a racetrack than a national park. Its appearance is that of a combination dump and racetrack, where everywhere you look tracks have come through. People have simply driven over into the deserts, driven into the United States. You can fly over and see all these tracks looking like spiderwebs every place.
The illegal aliens crossing the border at this point have ruined the environment. They have destroyed much of the environment to the extent that I cannot believe the Sierra Club does not go down there and really go ballistic. But of course they will not, since this would be a politically incorrect thing for them to do, to complain about the degra- dation of the environment being done by illegal immigration.
We watched as illegal aliens came into the country, completely undetected, except for the fact we happened to be flying over and watching them. But certainly we do not know who they are and, for the most part, of course, they are coming for the benign reason of a job. Absolutely true. But how do I know all of them come for that purpose?
I guarantee you all of them do not come for that purpose, since we could also see the remnants of the drug trafficking, which is enormous. We picked up sacks all over the landscape where people had carried them in because they were coming in illegally and they were being used as what they call mules to bring the stuff in on their backs. And by the way, this is observable certainly on the southern border, but it is absolutely as rampant on the northern border, especially the drug traffic. So it is not just a southern border problem. It is a huge problem for America.
We do not know who is coming. We know that there are cartels in South and Central America that are now specializing in the importation of people, not just drugs any more. They have changed their marketing tactics, their sales or whatever. They are now importing people because it is more lucrative. For a "coyote" to bring him into the United States, it costs a poor Mexican peasant $1,500 to $2,000; the price is up to $55,000 for someone coming from the Middle East or Asia. People smuggling is a very lucrative endeavor.
What do the "coyotes," or smugglers, have invested in their criminal enterprise? Hardly anything. It is not like they need to pay the growers for the plants or make any other heavy investment in drugs. You do not have that kind of investment in people. And if the smugglers lose a load, there is plenty more where they came from. So it is no big deal.
Now there is a cartel in what is called the tri-border area. This is in southwestern Brazil, near the corner of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina. The tri-border area is a very lawless area and the site of an enormous amount of smuggling activities. It is also the site of the Mexican mafia cartel that no longer deals in drugs specifically, now dealing primarily in people, and it likes to concentrate on Middle Easterners wanting tocome into the U.S.A., since they pay the most for bringing them across the border, $55,000 per person.
Middle Easterners coming into into South and Central America will go the tri-border region, be acclimated there in Brazil for a little bit, and then they are moved into Mex- ico and, and from there, into the United States. Some of them may be coming for jobs. Maybe they are all coming to do jobs Americans just will not do. I hear that all the time. We are constantly told that the only reason why we have illegal immigration is because we have so many jobs Americans will not do.
So do we have to bring into the U.S.A. Saudis and Pakistanis and Iranians and Chi- nese? Well, no. There are other reasons people are coming here, and some of them are nefarious. Some of the reasons are very, very scary. But our borders are porous, and they can come across at their will. And we are shirking the most basic responsi- bility we have as members of Congress.
It may be bizarre to say such a thing here, but our primary responsibility in the Con- gress is not to educate America's children and youth; it is not to provide welfare bene- fits to America's disenfranchised and poor; it is not to provide highways; it is not to provide recreational services. Those things are not any of the identified responsibili- ties of the Congress in the United States Constitution, which is supposed to be our guiding light.
Every member of Congress takes an oath. We House members stand here at the be- ginning of the session, and take an oath. We do not take an oath to the President, nor do we take an oath to our political party. We take an oath to the U.S. Constitution. When you take a look at the Constitution, what does it say about educating children and youth or doing any of the other things I just mentioned? Granted, you have to interpret the Constitution. But what does it say about our responsibility to defend America? What is the U.S. national government's role? Clearly and unambiguously, national defense is our primary role. It is the one thing, above all other governmental functions. we are supposed to do: defend the American nation.
Therefore, we shirk our primary responsibility here when we refuse to defend our own borders because of the politics of cheap labor and immigrant voting. The politics of cheap labor and immigrant voting! That is the reason we do not defend our borders. That is it. As ugly and as uncomfortable as that is to deal with, it is the truth. Two years after the most devastating attack on our shores we have ever experienced, we still do not defend our own borders and enforce our immigration laws because of the fear that, if we do so, we will cut off the supply of cheap labor for businesses and pre- vent Democratic candidates for government ofiices from gaining more and more votes among the immigrant population. It is rank politics, pure and simple. It is unaccepta- ble. It is disgusting.
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, on September 24, 2003, as a speech from the floor of the
House of Representatives.
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