Politics & Policy

Breaking Point

Arizona congressman J. D. Hayworth on immigration.

“If Congress should ever send a guest-worker plan to the president for enactment, I think it may just seal our doom come November.”

So warns Arizona Republican J. D. Hayworth, now in his sixth term in Congress, in an interview with National Review Online Editor Kathryn Lopez. Hayworth is the author of Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror, written with Joseph Eule.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: How bad is illegal immigration in Arizona?

Congressman J. D. Hayworth: It could not be much worse. Every night thousands of illegal aliens cross into Arizona. Most simply use it as a transportation hub, but many also stay to the detriment of our state. It costs Arizona about $750 million to educate the children of illegal immigrants and $400 million for nonreimbursed medical care. And then there is the crime and all the other social problems associated with illegal immigration. In fact, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that illegal immigration costs each Arizonan almost $700 a year–a hidden tax that subsidizes illegal aliens and those who hire them.

The border in Arizona is not only an environmental wasteland, but also a veritable war zone. Most people along the border are armed. The violence is staggering. In one particularly brutal instance, rival gangs of human smugglers had a rolling shoot-out along Interstate 10 in southern Arizona. Parents don’t let their children play in the yard unless they are with them…and armed. Dogs are routinely poisoned. Certain roads are too dangerous to drive on after dark. Illegals crossing the Barry Goldwater bombing range have interrupted training and in 2004 caused the loss of more than 50 training days. At the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, tribal leaders estimate illegal border crossers leave behind six tons of trash a day, not to mention the tons of marijuana that have been seized.

I could go on and on. People in Arizona are truly at the breaking point. It is not just the biggest issue in the state; at this point it is the only issue.

Lopez: Whose fault is it that the Border Patrol appears to be AWOL?

Congressman Hayworth: It’s not the Border Patrol that is AWOL, the politicians are. The Border Patrol is actually doing a tremendous job against incredible odds. Not only is the Border Patrol underfunded, understaffed, outmanned, and outgunned, but the rest of the federal government actually works to make its job harder by actually making it easier for illegals to settle into American life. I cite several examples of that in the book.

That is why one of the steps I advocate is a temporary deployment of troops to the border to establish operational control. As I say in the book: Our goal should be to put the “bored” back in Border Patrol; but first we have to put the “order” back in border.

Lopez: If immigration is such a security issue why hasn’t a nightmare scenario happened already?

Congressman Hayworth: I’d say we have already had a nightmare scenario. Could 9/11 have happened without lax immigration laws and lax enforcement of those laws? Probably not.

But more to the point, I think you would be hard pressed to find a single Arizonan living along the border who would not say they are living a nightmare scenario. Granted, there hasn’t been a single devastating event since 9/11, but the cumulative effect of unrestricted illegal immigration has been just as bad. Numbers are very hard to come by, but a conservative estimate of the number of Americans killed by illegal aliens since 9/11 is higher than the number of Americans killed in Iraq and probably higher than the number of Americans killed on 9/11 itself. It may be slow-motion nightmare, but it is a nightmare nonetheless.

But unless we take steps to get control of the border, I think it is only a matter of time before we do experience some catastrophic event; a view shared by CIA Director Porter Goss and others who say that terrorists smuggling a WMD across our southern border is one of their biggest fears.

Lopez: Is there such a thing as a job Americans won’t do?

Congressman Hayworth: I don’t think there is. As I put it in the book, illegal aliens don’t take jobs Americans won’t; they take wages Americans won’t. Americans have always done jobs that are hard, dirty, and dangerous. But if someone is willing to do those same jobs for a fraction of the price, well…

When I was growing up in North Carolina, a summer job like picking crops or house painting or working at a drive-in restaurant was considered a rite of passage and an essential character-forming experience that prepared young people for the responsibilities of adulthood. Illegal immigrants now fill many of those jobs, leaving many young Americans, especially minorities, out of work. Illegal immigration is one of the reasons the past few years have been some of the worst ever for teenage summer employment.

But if unrestricted illegal immigration continues, I believe we will eventually create whole categories of jobs that Americans view as jobs only good enough–perhaps bad enough is more like it–for illegal workers. Actually, one of the arguments put forth by the Jordan Commission against the bracero program was that a temporary-worker program would result in certain jobs becoming associated with low-paid immigrant labor. Ironically, the supposed solution to “jobs Americans won’t do,” a guest-worker plan, would likely lead to jobs Americans won’t do!

Lopez: How can those advocating for immigration reform better articulate their concerns and outrage? Do we suffer from an image problem?

Congressman Hayworth: I don’t think we suffer from an image problem at all. In fact, if you look at the polls we are winning the debate. Of course, we all have to be very careful how we debate this issue. Our opponents are trying, and I’d say failing, to portray us as racists and xenophobes and we all must be careful not to provide them any ammunition. This issue has nothing to do with race, but has plenty to do with national security, culture, economics, the rule of law, and assimilation. These are legitimate issues and as long as we discuss them in a dignified way, I think we will continue winning the debate.

Lopez: Speaking of: What do you think of Tom Tancredo?

Congressman Hayworth: I think he has done a terrific job and has taken a lot slings and arrows for his trouble. He obviously has tapped into something out in the American electorate and many Americans are responding to him. Has he used tough rhetoric? You bet. But this is a tough issue that requires straight talk. And Tom Tancredo, to his credit, has set many of the terms of debate.

Lopez: What’s your beef with Vicente Fox? How can this relationship be saved?

Congressman Hayworth: In a nutshell, my beef with Vicente Fox is that he has nothing but contempt for our laws, our sovereignty, and our people. Fox thinks that our immigration laws don’t apply to his countrymen and that he should be the one to decide who gets to live in the U.S. So he openly encourages more Mexicans to head north to not only break our immigration laws, but also trample the spirit of citizenship and assimilation those laws were designed to foster.

Fox calls the illegal invasion a “migration” and won’t even acknowledge that those who cross our borders in violation of our laws are illegal, telling Sean Hannity in March of 2002, “They are not illegals. They are not illegals. They are people that come there to work, to look for a better opportunity.” And the U.S. is supposed to be the arrogant one in the relationship?

There is no denying that Mexico has acted more as an accomplice in illegal immigration than a partner in preventing it because its economy is hooked on the $17 billion in annual remittances from Mexicans working in the U.S., more than Mexico earns from tourism or foreign investment and perhaps economically more important than Mexico’s state-owned oil industry. And let’s not forget Mexico’s refusal to support our action in Iraq. For this the Mexican government should be rewarded with amnesty for its people and even more green cards?

Mexico needs some tough love from the United States. As long as we remain Mexico’s economic safety valve, there will be no incentive to reform. It is not in our power nor should it be our intention to dictate how Mexico arranges its economic and governmental affairs. But it seems to me that the Mexican government has an obligation to its people to change and the Mexican people have an obligation to their country to make sure it does. Ultimately, whether our relationship with Mexico is saved is up to them. Remember, we are the aggrieved party.

Lopez: Why shouldn’t we fear the Minutemen?

Congressman Hayworth: The day we fear any group of fellow Americans will be a sad day indeed. But why should we fear them? They are nothing but ordinary Americans who have petitioned their government for a redress of grievances.

I know the popular perception on the left is that the Minutemen are a bunch of gun-toting yahoos. But I actually spent time with the Minutemen on the border last April and found that they were nothing but the citizen protesters they said they were. In fact, I talked to a reporter down there who did a survey of the Minutemen he came in contact with and he told me that only about 15-20 percent of them were carrying firearms, which is legal in Arizona. That is far less than the percentage of Arizonans who own guns, so the Minutemen were less armed than average Arizonans. And let’s not forget that despite all the talk about trigger-happy vigilantes, there was not a single instance in which a Minuteman even drew a gun, despite numerous provocations.

Is there a danger that as the Minutemen spread to other states some unsavory elements could infiltrate its ranks? Maybe. But I haven’t seen signs of that. If that does happen, it will be up to Minutemen leadership to clean up their ranks.

Lopez: What’s your reaction to the protests we are seeing?

Congressman Hayworth: I’m incredulous. This is how absurd the situation has become. In 2002, Mexico petulantly expelled on charges of domestic interference a dozen American college students that were legally in country. Why? Because they participated in a protest against a planned airport.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of illegal Mexicans protest on our streets, disrupt our cities, and intimidate our citizens–and are celebrated by the mainstream media and cheered on by the Mexican government.

If America ever interfered in Mexican internal affairs the way Mexico interferes in ours, our diplomats would be expelled. So I say any Mexican diplomat found to have helped plan, organize, or participate in the recent protests should be expelled forthwith.

One columnist, Ernesto Portillo, went so far as to compare these outrageous protests to the Boston Tea Party, calling them “part of our rich tradition.” He wrote of the protestors, “their hope is to be part of the American fabric,” although the only fabric I saw on display in Phoenix and Los Angeles were the flags of Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, et al. And Portillo wants us to believe these people truly want to be Americans?

These recent protests also illustrate the sense of entitlement permeating the illegal alien mindset. Many of the marchers think they are special because the American southwest once was part of Aztlán, the mythical place of origin of the Aztec peoples, although to many it refers only to those parts of Mexico taken over by the U.S. in 1846. As Samuel Huntington pointed out, “No other immigrant group in American history has asserted or has been able to assert a historical claim to American territory. Mexicans can and do make that claim.”

Indeed, a 2002 Zogby poll found that 58 percent of Mexicans believe the American southwest rightfully belongs to them, while 57 percent don’t think they need permission to enter our country. So it is not surprising that last week we saw protest signs like this: “I’m not illegal because this is my homeland.”

But the Mexicans aren’t the only ones who demand special treatment. In Washington a few weeks ago, Irish illegal immigrants protested for amnesty at the Capitol. One of the participants, lobbyist Niall O’Dowd, argued that Irish illegals were “a special case” because of “how much Ireland has contributed to America in the past,” a claim that could be made by almost every ethnic group in the world. O’Dowd’s goal is to ensure that “the Irish as a nation never have to deal with this issue of illegality in the U.S. again.”

Got that? A special open borders policy just for Ireland. As a columnist in the Irish Daily Mail put it, Irish illegals “express a kind of indignation that the Irish should have to get in the queue with the Mexicans and the rest.” That’s outrageous.

It is easy to understand why someone would want to flee Mexico, with its corrupt and backward economy. But Ireland has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Irish illegal aliens have no excuse for breaking our laws other than, apparently, they think they’re special.

Lopez: What should the Senate do in the coming days?

Congressman Hayworth: Easy. Listen to the American people! They have made it very clear that they want to get tough on the border and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens. They do not want a guest worker plan. If the Senate insists on passing a guest worker plan that is a special-interest giveaway that will never work, it will set up a battle royale with the House. And if Congress should ever send a guest-worker plan to the president for enactment, I think it may just seal our doom come November. Midterm elections are base elections. I have been out there talking to the base and they are telling me that if we enact a guest worker plan, they will stay home in November. Hopefully the Senate will pull back from the brink, but I’m not optimistic. The House will once again have to act the role of the adult.

Lopez: Have you ever sat down with the president on this issue? Is it perplexing to you that he’s not where you are on immigration? He is commander-in-chief in a time of war and he’s from a border state.

Congressman Hayworth: No, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit with the president to discuss this. As for his views, we need to remember that for many, many years Texas had a very different experience with illegal aliens that the rest of the border states. Illegal immigration was never considered a major problem there and because of its history, Texas always looked at illegals a little differently. Coming out of that background it is not surprising that George W. Bush would have a different attitude than those of us from the southwest.

I can also tell you this: Things in Texas today are very different from when George W. Bush lived there. Texans now view illegal immigration as the rest of the border states do. That’s because the nature of illegal immigrants has changed significantly. In my book I quote a Texas rancher, Kerry Morales, who said: “Maybe twenty years ago the illegals were innocent, hardworking people. Not anymore. Now, they’re extremely dangerous. They mean violence.”

That the president came into office with a Texas perspective on this issue isn’t that surprising. That he has maintained it even in the face of what has transpired since 9/11 is, in my mind, incomprehensible and profoundly disappointing and disturbing.


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