Speaking to Republican senators yesterday, President Bush argued that they should support the immigration bill because “doing nothing is unacceptable.” That’s odd: It has seemed pretty acceptable to him for most of his time in office. He is right that the status quo features porous borders, widespread flouting of the law, and more than 12 million illegal aliens. But it is the very status quo over which he has presided — and which the bill he favors would probably make worse. The grand compromise bill assumes that critical improvements in border security and interior enforcement can be made in 18 months. Of course, whether any improvements are realized or not, legal status would have been conferred on millions of illegal aliens within months of the bill becoming law. As Senator Jim DeMint explains, “There is no excuse for anyone to believe that what’s in this bill is going to happen, except for the amnesty.”
Senators on both sides of the immigration debate told President Bush that their constituents doubted the federal government’s willingness to enforce the immigration laws. They suggested that Washington show a concrete commitment on enforcement before asking the public to accept such a sweeping reform. Many of them support an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund enhanced border security and to help states pay for the secure identity cards that the federal government has required them to develop. Spending money is a typical Washington cop-out. Additional funding is, obviously, not all that stands in the way of these long-overdue reforms being realized. Any new spending must be matched with a demonstrable political will to see our immigration laws enforced, or else Congress would have merely enacted a far more expensive version of the failed 1986 immigration reform.
“Comprehensive immigration reform” should be set aside so that over the next 18 months, President Bush can do what his administration has failed to do over the past six years. Don’t just show us the money, show us the enforcement.