Dobbs: Give it a rest, Mr. President

Lou Dobbs
CNN
Friday June 15, 2007

President Bush is building his legacy, adding another unfortunate line of hollow bravado to his rhetorical repertoire. To "Mission accomplished," "Bring it on," "Wanted: Dead or alive," and of course, "I earned ... political capital, and now I intend to spend it," he has added "I'll see you at the bill signing," referring to his own ill-considered push for so-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Bush emerged from a midday meeting with Republican senators on Capitol Hill to declare, "We've got to convince the American people this bill is the best way to enforce our border."

No, Mr. President, someone you trust and respect must convince you that kind of tortured reasoning should never be exposed before cameras and microphones. Isn't there anyone in this administration with the guts to say, "Give it a rest, Mr. President"?

Sen. Jeff Sessions came close when he said, "He needs to back off." This president desperately needs to be reminded that he is the president of all Americans and not just of corporate interests and socio-ethnocentric special interest groups.

In what other country would citizens be treated to the spectacle of the president and the Senate focusing on the desires of 12 million to 20 million people who had crossed the nation's borders illegally, committed document fraud, and in many cases identity theft, overstayed their visas and demanded, not asked, full forgiveness for their trespasses?

Illegal aliens and their advocates, both liberal and conservative, possess such an overwhelming sense of entitlement that they demand not only legal status, but also that the government leave the borders wide open so that other illegals could follow as well, while offering not so much as an "I'm sorry" or a "Thank you."

This bill would be disastrous public policy and devastate millions of American workers and their families, taxpayers and any semblance of national security. Yet even in defeat, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, one of the reform bill's chief architects, declared: "Doing nothing is totally unacceptable." Like the senator, Bush says the status quo is unacceptable.

The president and the senator are wrong. It is the sham legislation they support that is totally unacceptable. But if Bush and Kennedy sincerely desire resolution to our illegal immigration and border security crises, I'd like to try to help. But a word of caution, if I may, to our elected officials: Resolution of these crises will require honesty, directness and an absolute commitment to the national interest and the common good of our citizens. Here are what I consider to be the essential guiding principles for any substantive reform:

First, fully secure our borders and ports. Without that security, there can be no control of immigration and, therefore, no meaningful reform of immigration law.

Second, enforce existing immigration laws, and that includes the prosecution of the employers of illegal aliens. As Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, put it, illegal employers are the magnet that draws illegal aliens across our border. Enforcing the law against illegal employers and illegal aliens at large in the country will mean bolstering, in all respects, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Third, the government should fund, equip and hire the people necessary to man the Citizenship and Immigration Services. To do so will ensure that the agency is capable of fully executing and administering lawful immigration into the United States and eliminating the shameful backlog of millions of people who are seeking legal entry into this country.

Those three steps are necessary to the security of the nation and the effective administration and enforcement of existing immigration laws. Those steps should be considered non-negotiable conditions precedent to any change or reform of existing immigration law.

At the same time, the president and Congress should order exhaustive studies of the economic, social and fiscal effects of the leading proposals to change immigration law, and foremost in their consideration should be the well-being of American workers and their families.

The president and Congress should begin the process of thoughtful reform of our immigration laws. Public hearings should be held throughout the nation. The American people should be heard in every region of the country, and fact-finding should be rigorous and thorough. The process will be time-consuming and demand much of our congressmen and senators, their staffs and relevant executive agencies.

The importance of securing borders and ports and reforming our immigration laws is profound, and that security is fundamental to the future of our nation. That future can be realized only with a complete commitment to a comprehensive legislative process of absolute transparency and open public forums in which our elected officials hear the voices of the people they represent. American citizens deserve no less.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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