With the Supreme Court ruling [Demore v. Kim, PDF] last week that legal immigrants may be held without bail pending deportation proceedings and Attorney General John Ashcroft claiming that illegal immigrants can be held without bail, the situation for immigrants in this country is not quite as rosy as it used to be.
Nevertheless, the federal government still has managed to miss the point of the very measures it is now imposing.
That point is that, if mass immigration is really a threat to national security, it needs to be ended.
Like many people, some government officials seem to understand only part of this concept. The New York Times last week quoted the general counsel for the Justice Department, Kris Kobach, on the progress of government-required registration of immigrants from terrorist-supporting countries. [Fearful, Angry or Confused, Muslim Immigrants Register, By Rachel L. Swarns With Christopher Drew, NYT April 25, 2003, Pay archive; Indymedia version]
"I regard this as a great success," beamed Mr. Kobach. "Sept. 11 awakened the country to the fact that weak immigration enforcement presents a huge vulnerability that terrorists can exploit."
Well, in the first place, "the country" understands and has long understood the dangers of mass immigration and especially of illegal immigration, as poll after poll has shown for years; it's not the country that failed to understand this truth but the government itself, which has consistently (and largely deliberately) refused to enforce existing immigration laws adequately or to pass new laws.
But in the second place, a tip of the hat to Mr. Kobach for a brilliant but obvious insight that immigration reformers have been trying to explain to the government for decades.
Mr. Kobach was quoted in the context of a story about the trials and tribulations of the immigrants who are registering (or not registering) and the government officials who are carrying out the program. Since October the government has been registering immigrants from various Arabic countries as well as immigrants from anywhere if they seem "suspicious."
Since December, the feds have registered immigrants living in this country from some 25 countries believed to support or "tolerate" terrorism. So far, they have registered 130,000 male immigrants and nabbed 11 suspected terrorists and more than 800 criminal suspects and deportable convicts as well as a whopping 9,000 illegal aliens.
That's all terrific. Only 10,991,000 illegal aliens to go.
The latter figure points out the absurdity of the whole program, for all the "great success" that Mr. Kobach declares. The figures alone tell us—again—what immigration reformers have been saying for years—that mass immigration imports thousands of criminals, convicts, terrorists, subversives, and general deadbeats, especially when the government doesn't enforce the immigration laws.
It is impossible for the government (or any government) to police or track this vast population adequately.
To accomplish its immense quest to register immigrants, the government, as the Times reports, "has shifted staff from different departments to focus on the program," but even that desperate effort has not prevented all sorts of predictable problems that rightly make law-abiding immigrants upset: "confused and inconsistent officials who sometimes denied them their right to legal representation and, in rarer instances, mistaken arrests and detention in filthy, overcrowded cells."
The government's response is to claim that such errors are "inevitable," and so they probably are.
When you don't enforce the immigration laws you already have and refuse to enact and enforce new ones and your country attracts millions of immigrants, legal and not, over the years, then of course when you eventually wake up and start trying to figure out who and how many have invaded your country and to register them, it's "inevitable" there will be problems.
Yet it will probably take another few decades to persuade the federal government of the equally obvious insight that even all its Herculean efforts to register all the immigrants it can find is not what is needed to protect the country, let alone to figure out that immigrants from Arabic countries are not the only ones who may be involved in terrorism or crime.
What the government has done since the Sept. 11 attacks to screen [PDF] and register suspicious immigrants is all well and good and may actually have served to prevent terrorist attacks as well as some common crimes.
But it also is slow, cumbersome, inherently inefficient, sometimes just plain unjust, and ultimately impossible.
Wouldn't it make a lot more sense, if we all agree with Mr. Kobach that "that weak immigration enforcement presents a huge vulnerability that terrorists can exploit," to say B and halt immigration entirely?
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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control.]