And of course, as predicted, he said nothing about the 308,000 illegals in our federal and state prisons (representing about 20% of the total state and federal prison population of 1.5 million at the end of 2004), or the Mexican government’s active intervention in our legal process when illegals are either caught outright or found working because they successfully fooled their employer with false identification.
He came off as at least interested in securing the borders. Whether he means it, or whether those assigned to carry through with it will do it, is another matter.
I found myself very irritated with three things (bolds are mine):
1. The “Good People” Gambit
We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system. For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border and millions have stayed.
Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems, yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives.
Horsecrap. “Decent people” don’t “sneak across our borders,” “use forged documents,” abuse benefits that are meant for citizens, or take up 15% of our prison space. That, Mr. President, is a gigantic con.
2. The Employer ID Card
Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility.
There’s one in place already. Employers don’t use it if they think the documents look okay, even if it’s pretty obvious that the person isn’t who they say they are. A simple requirement that employers MUST proactively verify the Social Security number of a job applicant against the existing database of SSNs or against the database of those with work permits makes this supposedly foolproof ID card (yeah, right) unnecessary.
3. The Marine Hero
Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. When asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him and the chance to become an American citizen.
On one level, this is a very heartwarming story, and I appreciate Mr. Denogean’s service to our country.
At another level, it’s maddening: How in the heck does someone enter the armed services as a non-citizen? If it takes forged documents, how “honorable” is that? And in light of some of the gang-related problems in the military that have occasionally surfaced, how much of it can be traced to non-citizen soldiers (not believing I just typed that term)?
Overall, the speech wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t enough. It’s up to the House to stand firm on border security as a precondition for taking any other actions, and to make sure that the vaunted work permit program doesn’t turn into a de facto open borders program.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is much less than impressed.
UPDATE 2: Kim at Wizbang has a good cross-section of the decidedly mixed reax (links are to original posts) — Dan Riehl, Greg Tinti of Political Pit Bull, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina at the top of Hot Line blog, and Hugh Hewitt.
Very significantly, Hewitt spun on a dime from fairly positive to downright negative after interviewing Clueless Julie “ICE Princess” Myers: “My interview with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers staggered me, undoing in a handful of minutes my confidence in the president’s commitment to border security first. Either the president’s team had not communicated effectively with sub-cabinet appointees about the fence, or the president doesn’t really believe in the fence, because Assistant Secretary Myers is clearly not a proponent of the fence.” Debbie Schlussel, call your office.
UPDATE 3: More from the same Hewitt post, as it is significant that a Bush cheerleader like Hugh is sounding the alarm:
Memo to Tony Snow: The blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers are turning against this speech in a decisive fashion. They simply do not believe the Administration is really committed to border enforcement, and the spokespeople sent out to back up the president’s message aren’t doing that job. Period.
It is all about the fence. The real fence.
UPDATE 4, May 18: Freedom Folks — “The president never called for a wall last night.” Given what Myers said, I don’t think so either.
UPDATE 5, May 18: FullosseousFlap is very displeased, and has a treasure trove of links at the bottom of his post.