Editorial: Immigration reform starts at border | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Immigration reform starts at border

Illegal immigration has long been a political football in this country, a controversial issue that needs the attention of the very politicians who appear too worried about public opinion to take any action. While President Bush finally indicated a willingness to take action during a speech Monday in Arizona, don’t count on any substantive reform.

Bush says he favors laws that strengthen the security of the border, while creating a guest worker program that gives immigrants currently here illegally a path toward legal residency. But he proposes adding only 1,000 border guards (woefully inadequate to affect any real change), and promises his plan does not include amnesty.

With a proposal that lacks any teeth, Bush skirts the real issue – a virtually open border.

Americans have long been crying out for stricter controls on our borders, and the federal government has yet to answer. Until this country gets serious about stopping the flood of illegal immigrants, the other problems that stem from illegal immigration will never be resolved.

The first priority in post-9/11 America is border security. It doesn’t make sense to bolster our immigration controls at places like airports and ports if we are not going to invest in security on our southern border. As it stands, illegal immigrants cross at will. America doesn’t know who they are, why they are here or whether they represent a threat to national security (there aren’t even clear estimates on the number of illegal crossings). And we have had four years to do something about it.

Hiring 1,000 border agents puts a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The goal of true border control should be to ensure our immigration laws are followed. Without exception, immigrants must have permission to enter barring a change in immigration policy. Then we can talk about a guest worker program.

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The cost of illegal immigration is also a practical component that is often glossed over, but not in the border states, where the price of social services is skyrocketing. For example, in May lawmakers on Capitol Hill proposed $1 billion to aid flailing state hospitals over the next four years. But dozens have already declared bankruptcy. When U.S. citizens and legal residents supplement the cost of illegals, it is an untenable situation.

Unless Americans want an open-border policy – perhaps we need a vote to find out – the first step toward solving the immigration problem is controlling our border. If President Bush wants to talk solutions, he should start there.