Washington, D.C. – Seemingly incapable of showing the political leadership needed to stand up to the narrow segment of society that has turned its back on our country’s immigrant tradition, President Bush appears to be attempting to scurry to the front of that sad, right-wing parade.
With the new immigration policies announced this morning by Secretaries Chertoff and Gutierrez, and undeterred by either failure or reality, the Bush administration has decided to back the restrictionist dream of cleansing the United States of undocumented immigrants by attempting to rely on enforcement-only as the way out of the fundamentally broken immigration system afflicting our country today.
The central thrust of the policies announced today is flawed both because it embraces an enforcement uber alles approach that has proven unworkable in the past and because it endorses the notion that the 12 million undocumented can be driven from our country if only their living conditions can be made sufficiently miserable.
Contrary to the misinformation campaign championed by anti-immigrant advocates, ramping up enforcement as a solution to our country’s immigration woes has been tried and it has failed. Despite tripling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol along the southern border between 1990 and 2005 and increasing its funding tenfold between 1986 and 2002, the undocumented population in the United States doubled in size, the death rate of border crossings tripled, and the per-apprehension cost increased from $300 in 1992 to $1,700 in 2002.
To aspire, as the restrictionists with whom the administration has cast its lot today, to make life so inhospitable to immigrants that they will choose to separate from family and return to the very conditions from which they fled in search of the promise of America is to endorse a twisted vision of our country’s founding principles.
A comprehensive solution—one that addresses legitimate enforcement issues at the border and in the workplace but does so in conjunction with a tough, but fair, path to earned legalization for the undocumented living in the shadows and creates regulated paths for future workers to come to the United States—has been and remains the only reasonable solution.