ARIZONA DAILY STAR
President Bush said on Sunday he will find
supporters in Congress and change the nation's
immigration laws. He assured Mexico President
Vicente Fox of his commitment to immigration
reform and expressed optimism that he would be
able to get a bill through Congress.
All of which has been said before. The question
now is whether Bush has enough clout to move
congressional leaders who so far have blocked
any attempt to ease immigration laws.
Immediately following his reelection, Bush
declared, "I earned capital in the political
campaign and I intend to spend it." When
Congress reconvenes after the holiday season, we
will see whether the diehards in the House who
have opposed a guest worker program are willing
to sell what the president wants to purchase
with his political capital.
Immigration reform is long overdue.
As a two-part series on child immigration showed
Sunday and Monday in the Star, our current
immigration policies lead to family tragedies.
In his comments on Sunday, Bush said, "We want
people from Mexico treated with respect and
dignity." The Star series demonstrated national
policies that result in just the opposite.
The current laws are the worst kind of failure;
they do not achieve their intended purpose and
instead create hardship and tragedy for people
already so hopelessly destitute that they will
risk death to move to a place where they can
find work and elevate their standard of living.
What we have seen over the years is that
necessity is not the mother of invention;
desperation is. To those living in a country
where economic and social mobility is
practically impossible - especially for people
on the bottom rung of society - the risks
involved in trying to get to a better life in
the United States are nothing.
Immigration policy has been in a deep freeze
since 1996, when Congress passed the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility
Act. The law, a response to the Oklahoma City
bombing, added thousands of new employees to the
Border Patrol. It also appropriated millions of
dollars for equipment needed to detect and
intercept people entering the country illegally.
This approach has been roughly equivalent to
trying to extinguish a forest fire with a garden
Enforcement alone will not work, since it does
not deal with the circumstances that force
people to leave Mexico in the first place.
It will not work because families torn apart by
economic desperation will still risk life and
limb to rejoin each other in the United States.
At the beginning of his first term, President
Bush vowed to address the immigration issue, but
the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, erased
that item from the national agenda. Arizona Sen.
John McCain has already met with the president
to discuss the bill that he and Reps. Jeff Flake
and Jim Kolbe introduced last year.
Immigration reform must be among the president's
and Congress' top priorities. If indeed Bush has
political capital to spend, he should use it to
get House Speaker Dennis Hastert to move
legislation that includes a guest worker program
allowing Mexicans to enter the country legally.
Doing so will save the country millions of law-
enforcement dollars and add to the enormous sums
immigrant laborers contribute to the economy.
Aside from the dollars, we expect the president
to demonstrate the force of his moral values and
work to end the suffering of illegal entrants.