Skip to comments.A border war: why America is split over its rising numbers of illegal immigrants
Posted on 08/28/2005 8:17:20 PM PDT by Happy2BMe
A border war: why America is split over its rising numbers of illegal immigrants
By Edward Alden and Scott Heiser
Published: August 29 2005 03:00 | Last updated: August 29 2005 03:00
Manuel Chidez held the record at Dean Flake's ranch in Snowflake, Arizona. At its height in the 1970s, when Mr Flake and his brothers ran nearly 1,000 cattle over 200,000 acres of high desert, Mr Chidez was one of dozens of illegal Mexican labourers who would arrive each spring to grow corn and alfalfa to feed cattle in winter. Nineteen times, the US border patrol raided the Flake ranch, hauled Manuel away and dumped him across the border in Mexico. Each time he returned, sometimes in as little as a day.
"There was virtually no control at the border," says Jeff Flake, the fifth of Dean and Norita Flake's 11 children raised in the town named after Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, the Mormon missionaries sent by Brigham Young to settle Arizona in the late 19th century. "They would go back for birthdays, for Christmas, for holidays, because they could always come back across the border easily."
Now the Republican congressman for the 6th district in Arizona, the 43-year-old Mr Flake tells the story to show what he thinks has gone wrong with US efforts to control its borders. Mr Flake has formed an unlikely alliance with liberal Democrats to try to reverse what he says has been a two-decade history of failed immigration policies.
In 1986, the US Congress passed its first law aimed at curbing what was seen as the growing problem of Mexican migrants crossing the border. For years, ranchers, farmers and others in the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico had relied on the Mexicans who would come each year seeking work. Their pay would go to families in Mexico, and most would leave in winter when the work dried up. Some returned the next year, some did not, but very few remained permanently.
But the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act changed all that. It offered amnesty to some 3m undocumented workers, allowing them to stay in the US permanently. In exchange, a two-decade effort was started to stop any more from coming. Border security was tightened and employers were threatened with stiff fines if they hired illegal immigrants.
Despite efforts to tighten the law again in 1995, it has not reduced the number of illegal migrants. Instead, since 1986 the number of undocumented workers has swelled from roughly 4m to more than 10m. Employer sanctions have been sporadically enforced. Improved border security has made it more difficult to cross from Mexico into southern border states, with some 300 dying every year making perilous desert crossings. But there is no evidence that the crackdown has reduced the flood of migrants seeking work.
Following the 1986 law, "what was a circular pattern of migration became a settled pattern," Mr Flake says. "In the 1970s and 1980s, the average time here for migrant labour was about two years; now it's over 10 years.
"What we've managed to do so far at the border is to keep people from going back. I don't know that we've stopped anyone who really wants to get in from getting in. We've made it far more expensive and far more dangerous to come across, so those who are coming for work are going to come and stay."
America has a long history of welcoming not just immigrants, but illegal immigrants - a tradition celebrated in the famous verse on the Statue of Liberty that exhorts the world to "give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses learning to breathe free".
But in the past two decades, the US has grown far less welcoming. Since the mid-1980s, it has tried to discourage illegal immigrants by building fences, fining employers and jailing and deporting those found illegally. California broke ground in 1994 when 59 per cent of the state's voters passed Proposition 187, which banned illegal immigrants in the state from receiving public education, non-emergency medical care or any other taxpayer-funded benefits. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the issue has acquired new urgency, with opponents of illegal immigration saying America's porous borders threaten its very security.
President George W. Bush, who came to office in 2001 wanting to resolve tensions with Mexico over immigration, shelved the issue after the attacks. But Mr Bush, a former Texas governor who speaks a smattering of Spanish, has strong convictions on immigration. Last year he proposed the creation of a temporary guest worker programme that would offer a legal path for foreigners to live and work in the US. In a passionate speech, he lamented that undocumented immigrants "have risked their lives in dangerous desert border crossings, or entrusted their lives to the brutal rings of heartless human smugglers. Workers who seek only to earn a living end up in the shadows of American life-fearful, often abused and exploited".`
"The situation I described is wrong," he said. "It is not the American way. Out of common sense and fairness, our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling."
Mr Bush is promising a renewed push for immigration law reform when Congress returns next month. But disputes within his party have left the proposal stillborn. "There are strong, deep divisions within the Republican party on this issue," says Doris Meissner, a former head of the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service.
On one side is the business-oriented wing of the party, which wants to encourage low-wage immigrants. That wing points to a prediction by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that by 2010 there will be 10m unfilled jobs in the US, particularly in low-wage service industries. On the other side are more nationalist conservatives, who see illegal immigrants as a threat to American sovereignty and security.
Arizona is ground zero in that internal Republican war over immigration. Hundreds of volunteers, styling themselves after the Minutemen militia who fought the British in the American Revolutionary war, set up desert camps this year to bolster the undermanned US border patrol. This month the governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared a "state of emergency" on their borders with Mexico, freeing up several millions of dollars to bolster law enforcement efforts.
Like much of the US, Arizona's economy relies heavily on low-wage illegal labour, yet many Arizonans nonetheless resent it. According to research by the State's Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management, in 2000 more than 250,000 undocumented Mexicans worked in Arizona, some 12 per cent of the labour force. Yet Arizona last year approved Proposition 200, which required government employees to demand proof of legal residence for anyone seeking benefits and required them to report anyone who cannot provide such proof. Since then Arizona's legislature has approved a ream of bills that the Arizona Republic newspaper called "ill-conceived, counterproductive and mean-spirited" efforts "aimed at making life absolutely miserable for undocumented immigrants". Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat in the heavily Republican state, vetoed most of them.
The US Congress is now set to take up the debate. Following Mr Bush's call for a temporary guest worker programme, conservative Republicans in Congress, led by lawmakers from Arizona, have drawn up competing proposals that offer radically different solutions to the problem of illegal immigration. If the internal war in Arizona cannot be resolved, the chances of any national agreement are minimal.
JD Hayworth, a voluble former sportscaster whose suburban Phoenix district borders Jeff Flake's, represents one extreme of that debate. Last year, he was one of 88 House members to support a bill that would have required doctors and hospitals to report illegal aliens who came seeking medical care. He says September 11 ended Americans' willingness to turn a blind eye to undocumented foreigners. "People now understand that national security and border security are one and the same thing," he says.
Americans are certainly unhappy about illegal immigration. A Fox News poll in May found that 63 per cent of the country considered it a "very serious" problem, while 28 per cent saw it as "somewhat serious". Solid majorities are opposed to Mr Bush's temporary worker proposal.
Mr Hayworth says the US is in a vicious circle where the suggestion of a programme for temporary workers only adds to the flood of illegal immigrants hoping to be allowed into the country permanently. He insists that, until Washington shows the will to secure US borders and stop employers hiring illegal foreigners, allowing more workers in will add to the problem. "When you maintain a lax attitude towards this, you're just inviting more trouble," he argues.
The strategy that Mr Hayworth and other nationalist Republicans embrace has been dubbed "attrition through enforcement", a phrase coined by Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, which has churned out reams of studies concluding that illegal immigration is a crisis for America.
There is little debate over the data, which shows that immigration into the US is at levels not seen since early last century. And illegal immigrants now form almost half of the growth in the immigrant population. Most come with few skills, and the centre says the result is falling wages and higher unemployment for low-skilled US workers and growing burdens on the education and welfare systems.
Mr Krikorian dismisses the notion that demand for low-wage labour is driving the increase in illegal immigration. "There's this fallacy that there's a set level of foreign labour that the economy is going to suck in, so let's accommodate more of it, all of it, and then illegal immigration will shrink. The fact is immigration always creates more immigration."
Instead, he says the way to deal with the problem is by tightening the borders, increasing deportations and making life harder for illegal immigrants. Over time, the result would be "a shrinking of the illegal population to a manageable nuisance, rather than today's looming crisis".
The strategy has support in Washington. Congress in May passed the Real ID Act, denounced by immigrant advocacy groups as "the most shocking assault on immigrants' rights in nearly a decade". It aims to stop illegal aliens acquiring driving licences, on the grounds that terrorists could use them to open bank accounts or board aircraft.
Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona has taken the lead in drafting legislation introduced last month that would go further - adding 10,000 border inspectors, providing $500m annually for sensors and aerial surveillance and vastly increasing capabilities to deport illegal aliens. It would also create documents that authorise legal immigrants to work while increasing penalties for employers who hire illegal workers.
Jeff Flake's conservatism is of a different brand. He represents Mesa, a district bordering Tempe and Phoenix that is in many ways even more conservative than Mr Hayworth's district. After high school he followed the path of many Mormons by working as a missionary, in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He later attended Brigham Young University and in 1992 returned to Arizona to head the Goldwater Institute, a think-tank named after the state's conservative icon, Barry Goldwater.
His libertarian instincts have led him to take on some divisive issues. He is a strong advocate of trade with communist Cuba, while last year he voted against the reorganisation of US intelligence services following the recommendations of the September 11 commission, one of just 75 House votes against the popular bill. He opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
But nothing has been more contentious in his home state than his stance on immigration. This year he introduced legislation, alongside Ted Kennedy, the liberal Massachusetts senator, which pleased immigrants' rights groups by proposing a huge increase in temporary guest workers. The bill, also backed by John McCain, the Arizona senator, Jim Kolbe, the congressman, would create an annual guest worker quota of more than 400,000 and allow many illegal immigrants to receive legal status, though only after big fines and long waits.
During trips to Cuba, Mr Flake says, "I carefully avoided meeting Fidel Castro because I didn't want a picture of Fidel and myself to show up in my campaign. But now I've got one with Ted Kennedy, and in my district that's worse."
Many Republicans, including Mr Hayworth, denounce the bill as an "amnesty" programme. But Mr Flake says he is "prepared to take the political heat that might come in a Republican district meeting, and confess that we need the workers".
Mr Flake says his experiences on the ranch convinced him that an approach that relied only on stepped-up enforcement simply would not work. "The biggest failure of the 1986 act was the failure to recognise that we would continue to need workers and labour," he says. "The '86 act basically said that those who were here were all we would ever need. And of course we needed more the next day. It was out of date the day it was signed."
Yet the prospects for something better are uncertain. The 1986 act was years in the making and many immigration experts believe the effort this time will be at least as difficult. The White House, says Mr Flake, is "still gauging reaction". It is not clear that Mr Bush wants to spend political capital on the issue when his flagship social security reform initiative remains in jeopardy.
Republicans on both sides of the debate agree that the status quo cannot hold for much longer. The "Minuteman" phenomenon, in which Americans are taking enforcement of immigration laws into their own hands, has been spreading. In New Hampshire, Massachusetts and other places far from the border, local police with no authority to enforce federal immigration laws have begun to crack down on illegal immigrants by using minor charges to arrest them and seek their deportation. Mr Hayworth warns that frustration will force Washington to act. "This will reach a boiling point and I just hope we can take constructive actions before it does," he says.
While Mr Flake holds out little hope of persuading his Arizona colleague, he promises an all-out effort that he thinks can bring most Republicans around. The trump card, he hopes, is politics. Armed with support from local newspapers such as the Arizona Republic and backing from business interests, he and others have been lobbying their fellow Republicans. "It's the right thing to do, and it plays well," he says. Opposition to immigration, he insists, "is just bad politics. You put yourself in territory where I don't think the Republican party wants to be".
"What we've managed to do so far at the border is to keep people from going back. I don't know that we've stopped anyone who really wants to get in from getting in.
We've made it far more expensive and far more dangerous to come across, so those who are coming for work are going to come and stay."
"There's this fallacy that there's a set level of foreign labour that the economy is going to suck in, so let's accommodate more of it, all of it, and then illegal immigration will shrink.
The fact is immigration always creates more immigration."
Actually we have good laws on the books but they aren't enforced and they need a tiny bit of revision. If employer sanctions were given real teeth 10 years ago we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. A verifiable SS number database is cheap and easy and should have been compulsory for all employees to be verified against it. We could still do it today and at least 50% of illegals would self-deport.
That is the truth and is why our permanent illegal resident population is growing.
The only way to stop illegal immigration is to go after those that employ them and stop giving then handouts.
We don't need 10,000 BP Agents. We need 10,000 Agents whose job is to find illegal alien employers, jail them and seize the business.
...Jeff Flake's conservatism is of a different brand...
Yeah, he's an America hating commie!
The Vikings started out as migrant labor.
"receive legal status, though only after big fines "
Big fine = $ 2,000.00
With his attitude he has the perfect name, Flake!!!!
Couldn't agree more, we had that kind of enforcement 25 or 30 years ago and even in Los Angeles there wern't that many illegals and the ones that got thru were kicked out in short order.
Even 20 years ago very few got north of San Diego County, there were border patrol vehicles all over rounding them up as fast as they arrived.
The Vikings started out as migrant labor?
Yeah, they were migratory, all right. But they sure weren't doing the jobs that the Russians or the English or the Scottish or the Germans "didn't want to do". They came, they saw, they conquered, and they didn't have the governments of the lands they subjugated begging for their votes or their fruit-picking skills, either.
Is 'Special Order 40' still in effect for L.A.?
That may be the most effective way, but you will find that the political reality is that American citizens don't want the businesses in their own communities to be closed down or have to relocate to find employees.
"prediction by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that by 2010 there will be 10m unfilled jobs in the US, particularly in low-wage service industries."
Many of the companies that employ illegal laborers also employ citizens. They provide the tax base that supports the schools, police, hospitals, and other government services.
Some of us are trying to get immigration legislation passed and enforced at the state level here in TN. It's similar to the 1986 federal Act (minus the amnesty) with tougher penalties. If all the states did this, these people would not benefit from coming here and breaking our laws.
"Is 'Special Order 40' still in effect for L.A.?"
I know it's a sancturay for them.
" political reality is that American citizens don't want the businesses in their own communities to be closed down or have to relocate to find employees."
The damn sure do!!!!
I think raping and pillaging are jobs most Americans don't want.
Q: What is Special Order 40?
A: "Special Order 40"is not a law, but a police mandate that originated in 1979 by former Police Chief Gates and the L.A. City Council to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. The LAPD rightfully argues that without Special Order 40, innocent undocumented immigrant witnesses and victims would lose the trust of the LAPD and would not report crimes for fear of being deported. But Chief, in case you didn't know it, gang members are not innocent undocumented immigrant witnesses or victims.
The Sgt. Shultz "I know nothing" statute. Even if the police or other LA employee knows an illegal invader is an illegal alien, they've got to keep it a secret from the INS, ICE, etc...
DEPORT this Flake, flake!
It's not only in effect but more so with their new mayor who is an activist for the illegals.
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