A reply to Washington insiders on behalf of rank and file conservatives

Editor’s note: This letter was originally published in The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 17, 2004, also signed by Bay Buchanan, Victor Davis Hanson, David Keene, Michelle Malkin, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Phyllis Schlafly, and Paul Weyrich.

The “Conservative Statement of Principles on Immigration” published on Feb. 6, 2004 contains many statements that are sensible and universally supported by conservatives. Regrettably, it also offers an equal number of arguments that are either misleading or contradictory.
Yes, America is a nation of immigrants, but blurring the distinction between those who came here legally and those who scoff at our laws is a serious error. Millions of newcomers who have played by the rules have earned our support and our respect; those who ignore or violate the rules deserve neither.
We agree wholeheartedly with the authors’ support for policies designed to speed the assimilation of new arrivals. Ours is not a nation built on ethnic or religious homogeneity, but on shared ideals and a common language.
We agree fully with President Reagan’s famous metaphor of the “shining city on a hill.” It is a magnificent vision which reaffirms deep American values. Yet it is unfortunate that the authors of the “Statement” did not read Reagan’s words more carefully. Reagan said that “the doors” of this city must remain open. He did not say that people are welcome to bypass the doors and climb the walls.
The authors argue correctly that conservatives support legal immigration and oppose illegal immigration. But they then appear to justify illegal immigration by saying that current immigration laws do not meet their own three-part test of a good law. By their reasoning, the problem lies not with those who violate our laws but with the laws themselves.
The indisputable truth is that our current immigration laws have never been enforced.
No one expects a mere 9500 Border Patrol agents to effectively patrol over 5,000 miles of America’s land borders, as only 3000 are on duty at any given moment.. In addition, we defy any of the authors to claim in good conscience that our laws against employment of illegal aliens have ever been seriously enforced.
The 1986 amnesty for over two million illegal aliens was predicated on the promise that afterwards, the laws would be enforced and the borders made more secure. That was never done.
Let’s apply the authors’ three-part test of “good law” to the president’s new proposals. Does a new amnesty for eight to twelve million illegal aliens meet the test of common sense? No. Everyone with any common sense knows that it will only encourage a new wave of illegal aliens. In fact, it is already happening.
Does the President’s proposal meet the test of fiscal responsibility? No. Validating and encouraging illegal entry into our country will only magnify our country’s fiscal problems because all independent studies show that illegal aliens over the entire period of their stay in the United States are a net drain on our economy.
Does the president’s proposal meet the test of “avoiding the loss of innocent human lives”? No. Numerous activist groups have already denounced the president’s proposals as inadequate because they do not offer a guaranteed path to a Green Card and eventual citizenship. The president’s plan will not halt this onslaught because border-crossers have figured out that we will not enforce our laws.
The problem with the catchy slogan “matching willing workers with willing employers” is multifold: There are at least one billion inhabitants of our planet that would like to come to America and take jobs now held by citizens and legal residents at lower wages. No matter what the immigration level allowed by law, additional millions will always wish to come as long as our laws are not being enforced.

Mike Reagan, the eldest son of President Ronald Reagan, is heard on more than 200 talk radio stations nationally as part of the Radio America Network.

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