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Shamnesty - July 31, 2001

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

What genius came up with the idea of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants from Mexico only? It turns out that this misguided notion is a loser for the Bush administration in every way imaginable. It is fraught with legal, social, cultural, political and economic flaws, despite what proponents say to the contrary.

If the legal dimension of this blunder sounds eerily familiar, it should. Apparently it has escaped the minds of some of the folks in the Bush administration, though.

Surely a portion of the Bush team can recall that the basis upon which the Supreme Court decided the Bush vs. Gore case, which eventually led to George W. Bush's ascension to the White House, was the Fourteenth Amendment maxim of "equal protection." Any legislation that would single out a specific ethnic group for a legal benefit, while denying the benefit to others, is the quintessential example of violation of this same constitutional principle.

As was predictable, every other illegal immigrant group in the United States is now demanding equal treatment. Also predictable was the understanding that the White House would get an earful from an overwrought and under-appreciated taxpaying public. And indeed it has. Communication of all sorts has poured in from across the country, corroborating what a CNN poll found - close to 80% of Americans are against amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The Bush administration has chosen to respond to this manufactured mess in two ways. First, it is changing its rhetoric. The President and the Secretary of State have both stated that "blanket amnesty" is no longer under consideration. Instead, they indicated that they are open to some kind of "guest-worker" program, which would include all illegal immigrants.

Second, the Administration is embracing the proponents' attitude of urgency. Proponents argue that dealing with the 8 to 14 million illegal aliens who are here in the United States is a pressing matter that must be handled immediately. Additionally, they say that since we are not going to deport the illegal aliens who are here, we may as well legalize them.

What we have here is a failure to cogitate. There is no urgency to flout the rule of law. There is no urgency to reward people for breaking the rule of law, no matter how sympathetic their plight may be. And there is no urgency to make new law and grow the government even further.

We ignore our nation's border at our own peril. Our legal jurisdiction stops at the border. Just ask any law enforcement professional. Our national security begins at the border. Just ask any customs agent.

Most of us still cling to a romantic notion traditionally associated with immigration. We recall ancestors who longed to be part of this country, attracted not only by its prosperity and resources, but by its creed. The creed says, in America, all are created equal and are treated accordingly. Pursuit of justice is a constant. Hard work is rewarded and opportunity abounds. Freedom is an enduring legacy.

The American creed is enshrined in our founding documents, not for all peoples of the world, but for our citizens. The world knows it.

We cannot award the trophy of citizenship to those who display contempt for our laws. Neither can we cheapen the status of citizenship by dispensing it haphazardly. If we do, the citizenship of every person is devalued and our creed is defiled. The America we know and love will not survive if the integrity of our border is not maintained.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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