Earlier this year, Bush worked very hard to broker a compromise solution with Congress to pass broad legislation that would rework the way we approach the problem of illegal immigration on a number of different fronts. That effort failed... regretfully, in my opinion.
In discussions about that bill, more than one conservative of my acquaintance said that we simply needed to enforce the laws already on the books, rather than coming up with new laws to ignore.
It appears that the Bush administration has decided to take precisely that approach. According to this AP story, the National Guard troops and increased border resources are having a significant impact on illegal immigration. Deportations are up, and fewer illegals are attempting to get in.
(Side note: that story includes one of my pet peeves in this whole discussion... referring to illegal immigrants simply as "immigrants". "Migrants also say they feel Americans are increasingly hostile toward immigrants." No, we're not hostile toward immigrants who follow the rules!)
In general, I think this is good news. On the other hand, this part of the story gives me pause:
While some migrants try to set up new lives, others are caught between two worlds. Salvador Perez still has a pregnant wife and three small children in Bakersfield, Calif., where he worked on a pistachio ranch before he was deported. He's tried to cross the rocky, snake-infested mountains near Tecate three times this summer to get back to them, but failed each time.
I hate the idea of separating families like that. Yet, I don't think we can simply make "get married and have a kid" the automatic no-deportation card. I'm not sure how best to handle that situation. I think Bush's plan was a solid step in the right direction, and was probably better than simpy enforcing the law as it stands... but I figure enforcing the law is better than pretending it doesn't exist.
President Bush is now implementing another step of his enforcement plan, one that is allowed by current law. He was hoping for an upgrade to the ID system used by our immigration department, but lawmakers didn't approve that. So, in the interim, he is going to start enforcing valid Social Security numbers. It's possible to get a forged SS number, but it's much more easy to just make one up and hope nobody notices. It appears nobody has been bothering to notice. Now, Bush is intending to use that enforcement power to put pressure on employers to find legal workers.
I will be very interested to see how effective that is. If it is truly able to cut off much of the financial incentive for illegal immigration by making jobs for illegals harder to come by, that could be the most powerful step in preventing illegal immigration that we've seen yet.
And, when American employers who have been happily utilizing cheap illegal labor find themselves in a serious pinch, there might be a little more political will directed toward implementing a much-needed temporary worker program, so that those workers can come to America legally, and get paid for their work above-board.
These seem like positive developments to me. What do you think?