Crossroads or Cross Hairs
Throughout American history, people of all cultures have sought freedom and opportunity in our nation – legally, for the most part. We know that immigration is an integral part of American history that has made us so successful. We trumpet America’s being a unique crossroads of so many diverse groups. Yet, illegal immigration is another story. Many illegal immigrants don’t see America through some bright prism as a fertile crossroads, but see us through sinister cross hairs. No nation, including a melting pot like ours, can long endure unchecked, illegal immigration, wide open to the world’s worst characters.
I’m among the majority of Americans opposing amnesty for illegal aliens. I fully realize that many illegal aliens may have good intentions, but even the fraction of a percent who don’t, could bring death and destruction to our shores. We all worry about the possibility of illegal alien terrorists crossing the border with nuclear chemical or biological weapons and conducting attacks that could dwarf anything that happened on 9/11. Clearly, our continued security rests on how we address this issue.
President Bush advanced a proposal designed to give illegal immigrants employed here a special “guest worker” status which resembled an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. I told the President frankly that anything close to amnesty – where illegal immigrants would be absolved of their crime of illegally coming to America – would not get through Congress. The Senate is now considering a strategy centered first on tighter border enforcement, which includes funding to dramatically expand our border patrol.
I hope every Member of Congress will support enhanced border security regardless of party. The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonpartisan group that has been studying this issue for decades, estimates that between 10 and 12 million immigrants lived here illegally in 2004. That’s up from seven million just four years ago. Think about that. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of illegal immigrants living here increased by a number equal to Mississippi’s entire population. No wonder we’re already spending $12 billion on education for illegal immigrants alone. That doesn’t include other costs associated with illegal immigration like increased crime, the strain on social services and lost tax revenue.
Don’t think it only affects New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, either. Mississippi’s proximity to Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico could put us right in the center of the cross hairs. FAIR says Mississippi gained almost 20,000 immigrants between 1990 and census year 2000. We probably have many more illegal immigrants here today. More concerning is that with each passing year, fewer and fewer illegal immigrants are becoming U.S. citizens.
Now I acknowledge that most of these men and women are coming here to work and obtain a better life, but that’s really no excuse for inaction. After all, folks caught going 100 mph on the interstate always have a good excuse, too. But it’s still illegal and dangerous. Like all our laws, our immigration policy – especially one impacting our national security – must be crafted around the worst case scenario, instead of someone’s best intentions.
Like FAIR, Time magazine estimates that as many as three million illegal immigrants cross our borders each year – and time is ticking, no pun intended. America must enact a border strategy and immigration policy centered less around being warm and welcoming to every illegal immigrant and more toward vigilance and fairness for all American citizens. We must remember that even though America remains the world’s crossroads, we’re right in its cross hairs, too. (6/24/05)
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: GCN published Sen. Trent Lott's column with no editing or changes.