Trent Lott Answers Immigration Bill Critics
Public Sees Red Over Amnesty Provisions and Talk Radio Gets Tough With Republican Politicians; Liberals Clap Their Hands With Glee.
By Perry Hicks- Special to GulfCoastNews.com Filed 6/22/07 GCN
Not waiting for public anger over the recent immigration reform bill to dissipate, Democrat Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid is seeking to revive provisions of the bill using what is known as the “clay pigeon” tactic.
The clay pigeon breaks a cohesive bill up into individual issues that can be debated separately. Previously used to kill a bill, Reid’s tactic is to ensure some of the bill’s provisions make it through the U.S. Senate.
On hearing news of Reid’s intentions last week, conservative talk radio not only renewed its demonstrative opposition to the bill, it took to task both the president and those senators supporting the measure.
A key voice in the current immigration debate is Senate Republican Minority Whip Trent Lott who has not only been reported by the New York Times as supporting the bill, it has quoted him in a context of blame as saying, “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”
This immediately prompted radio talk show hosts to link Lott’s remark to the Democrat’s goal of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine. Talk radio king Rush Limbaugh hit the airwaves reminding Lott that it was talk radio that came to his defense during the Strom Thurmond controversy. Then, Michael Savage lived up to his name by savaging Lott for two days in a row, rhetorically asking Lott if he (Savage) needs to travel with a couple of body guards.
(Photo Right: Lott with wife Tricia swearing-in before V.P. Dick Cheney)
Later, Lott’s on-air interview with nationally syndicated talk radio host, Sean Hannity, faired no better with Hannity continuing to take issue with Lott’s stand on the Fairness Doctrine after Lott has clearly stated he would never support government encroachment on Talk Radio.
Lott’s problem with his remarks about Talk Radio or the proposed immigration bill, S1639- or any other immigration bill no matter how good- is that the American people no longer trust their government.
From the events that lead up to 9-11, to the Vietnam-like prosecution of the war in Iraq, to FEMA’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, the public has learned to disbelieve most any pronouncement coming out of Washington.
Supporters of the bill argue that it has provides the means to strengthen border control, identify legal aliens by government issued encrypted I.D. cards, and provide tough enforcement provisions against those who employ illegal aliens.
Lott has also rhetorically addressed his concerned constituents in his weekly column: “Do you have no faith in me after 35 years that I am just going to buy a pig in a poke here or be for something that is bad?”
Lott’s voting record indeed shows he considers proposed legislation in detail.
However, the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 contained a “Trojan Horse” clause specifying that sanctions against employing illegal aliens would be dropped if the General Accounting Office found that the sanctions fostered employment “discrimination.”
Furthermore, illegals have been allowed to pay taxes on earned income through stolen social security account numbers thus affording the treasury benefit from revenue streams that are disconnected from future payouts; income tax refunds, and FICA taxes.
The absence of promise to receive future benefits has not dissuaded illegals from entering the country. In 1986, the number of illegal aliens residing in the U.S. was officially estimated to number only about 2.7 million people. The current estimate of 12 million, nearly 5 times the 1986 figure, is usually quoted by the media as if it were a fact.
However, 12 million is not supportable by the high concentrations of non-English speaking, non-green card holding workers that are found all across America; a full ten percent of Mexico’s population of approximately 109 million- nearly 11 million people- is estimated to be residing in the Unites States alone. Some commentators independently estimate the true number of illegal aliens at somewhere between 20 and 30 million.
This human invasion combined with pressure to be politically correct results in the native born Americans feeling offense at having to adapt to these third world immigrants rather than the immigrants having to adapt to America. Accordingly, the nation no longer has a common sense of unity of language and culture.
Americans not only see their country culturally dissolving before their very eyes, they must increasingly defend their own right to be here. According to conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, America is in the process of committing national suicide.
Senator Trent Lott answered series of directed questions from GCN regarding the issues facing the nation and his role in what is happening. The following is his response in its entirety without any editing or editorial comment. The questions were provided to Lott in advance. We received a written response.
GCN: Your reported comment that “Talk Radio is running America” was not well received by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. They linked the companion statement of “We have to deal with that problem” to some future Fairness Doctrine. Is the quotation accurate and if so, what did you mean by it?
Lott: Look, I’m not trying to resurrect the law called the “Fairness Doctrine.” I’ve done hundreds of talk radio programs, from local stations in Mississippi to the big ones, like Hannity. Hardly a week goes by when I’m not doing some talk radio program talking about an issue.
But, I don’t think the Senate should just react to talk radio or any other form of media. The Senate needs to be much more proactive, to lead the discussion and lead the nation. That’s what Senators are supposed to do — take on issues, no matter how hard, and produce legislation. We’re not doing that to the extent we should.
We need a better immigration policy, and we need a national energy policy. And, if we do anything substantive on either, we’re going to take some heat from all sides. That’s the nature of this job. I’ve long learned to accept that. Both of these issues, energy and illegal immigration have a direct link to our national security, yet we just keep talking and talking without producing. We’ve got to get a handle on both energy dependence and illegal immigration.
As conservatives, we need to note the good parts of this (immigration) bill — more border fence, vehicle barriers, radar towers, aircraft, hiring thousands of border patrol agents — all things in this bill, all things which conservatives like me have advocated for years.
I was in Congress when we did the last immigration reform in 1986. I asked President Reagan then — I remember it vividly, talking to him at the White House. I asked him directly to initiate aerial surveillance of the border.
It didn’t happen. It just wasn’t a priority back in the Cold War days, when our eyes were mostly fixed on the Soviet Union. But, this is a new day and this new bill contains things that will help meet the new challenges along our southern border.
I don’t like parts of this bill, but I don’t think it’s right, or responsible, to just dismiss the bill outright. If we lose this opportunity for immigration reform in 2007, that will be it for a while.
2008 is an election year. And, if we have a Democratic president after, I just don’t see stronger border security legislation being put forward. That’s just the political reality we’re dealing with.
If, this bill goes through the process and gets weaker, I’ll vote against it, as I did the last immigration bill which was weakened by the process. But, let’s try to get something first.
Now, I think there has been a misinterpretation, maybe overreaction, to what my intent was with the talk radio comment. My argument is — with the media, television, radio, print and everybody – is that there is a lot of misinformation and inaccurate information about this bill out there in the public arena that we need to try to correct.
We need to make sure people understand what we’re trying to do, what’s in the bill and what’s not in the bill. And, I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that. That’s not talk radio’s fault. It’s really our fault because we haven’t done a good enough job early on, not necessarily now, but at the beginning, early in the process, to explain what was going on.
So, when I say ‘we’ve got to do something.” It’s about how we in the Senate must get out the accurate information. I’m not saying it’s their fault. It’s our fault.
But, I’ve been around a while. I understand there is disagreement on this, but here’s one thing that people on the Gulf Coast understand about me, I hope: I try to deal with the problems that we face on the Gulf Coast and in Mississippi and in America. Sometimes my point of view may not be right. Sometime I may not succeed. But, the people of Mississippi elected me to the Senate to try and do the right thing and to try to make a difference. That’s all I’m trying to do.
GCN: This bill would make it possible for a formerly illegal alien to bring his or her family legally to the United States. The 12 million figure is obviously too low so if 20 or even 30 million illegals are indeed here, and the family was to be brought in extends to 5 individuals- not an unrealistic number- then the U.S. could see a surge of 100 to 150 million new residents. When one considers that the population of the U.S. was only 175 million in the 1960s, 150 million would be a massive addition to our body politic. How can anyone expect America to assimilate so many new people so culturally distant from our own?
Lott: Well, the current situation, if unaddressed, will lead to dramatic increases, too. That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to get a new policy, to ensure America isn’t overwhelmed by a dramatically larger influx.
As the bill stands now, immigrants who attain Legal Permanent Resident status called “LPR” - also known as a green card - are allowed to petition to bring their spouse and minor children to the U.S.
How’s that different? Well, for the first time, this bill actually limits the definition of immigrant family to the immediate family, spouses and minor children. No longer will an individual be able to petition for bringing over their aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members, as allowed in current law.
And, beyond that, the bill puts caps on the number of immediate family members, of green card holders, that can be accepted across the board.
Under the provisions in this bill, the total number allowed to come into the country as the spouse or minor child of and LPR is capped at 87,000/year nationally.
So the bill would limit “chain migration,” as under current law has allowed by long extending the petition process well past the immediate family, and that’s what’s led to much of the massive immigration we’ve seen thus far.
We’re all concerned with the numbers, but, the new bill has potential to be stronger than the current law, to get a better handle on the problem. By limiting the individual’s petition eligibility to immediate family, and capping it nationally, we’ll have much more accountability than we have now.
GCN: This bill requires the (formerly) illegal applicant pay a hefty fine before receiving the benefits of citizenship. What is to keep the Left from removing this provision at a later date?
Lott: What keeps ‘the Left’ from changing current immigration law to something far more lenient? The legislative process doesn’t allow anyone to simply “remove a provision”. If the votes are present in Congress – and the Administration agrees – then ANY law can be changed. This is not something that is unique to immigration law.
We on the right could try to strengthen the bill, too. But, in order to do that we’ve got to have a platform from which to work. Again, as this bill is written, it is stronger than current law. And, I think that’s certainly a good starting point
GCN: How are people unfamiliar with democracy supposed to function within it?
Lott: Our nation has historically embraced immigrants previously unfamiliar with our system of government. This is one of the reasons that our citizenship process requires a basic knowledge of US history and civics. Are you insinuating that we should only allow immigrants from countries with a democratic government similar to ours?
In fact, as you know, in many cases people came here because of their native land’s government. They were escaping oppressive or failing governments and they came here and seek freedom and opportunity.
GCN: Would they not be ripe for political exploitation and the nation as a whole suffer for it?
Lott: Our democratic system is based on trust in the electorate. Additionally, we have statutes on the books to address political exploitation in our society. These laws will serve to protect new immigrants – and the nation – from the detrimental impacts of any potential political exploitation.
If you’re talking about one political party or the other gaining from an increase in Hispanic voters, well, I’ve heard good arguments that these voters could gravitate left, or right.
But, look, you can’t base policy making on a political outcome. That’s not what I’m studying here. This is an issue where we’ve got to do the best thing for people — American citizens and those who want to legally become American citizens have opportunity and contribute to our nation.
GCN: The bill also asserts border security will be strengthened. The Bush administration has already failed to keep its promises for more Border Patrol officers and hundreds of miles of fence between us and Mexico. Why should the public expect new promises to enforce new laws be honored any more than old promises to enforce old laws?
Lott: Why should we suddenly trust the government to enforce laws that are now 20 years old? We have to chart a new course, and the federal government, like it or not, is the only entity that we have in which we can entrust national security.
The public has every right to be skeptical of the administration with regard to border security. However, that skepticism is exactly why there are prerequisites or ‘triggers’ in this bill. These triggers must be satisfied before the bill reforms can be advanced.
Additionally, I have encouraged this President – and the previous three Presidents – to get control of our border. Since the President took office in 2001, we have increased funding for border security by 66 percent to more than $7.6 billion, equipped the Border Patrol with better technology, built new infrastructure, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to about 12,000 agents. This number is required – by the triggers in this bill - to expand to at least 20,000.
But, obviously, we need to do more. And, that’s what I’m attempting to do.
With regard to the fence, the legislation authorizing the first section of fence was only passed last fall. Now, as many folks on the Gulf Coast can tell you, it takes far too long for the government to act, sometimes.
That’s unfortunate, and, as you know, I’ve tried to change that whenever I can. I needn’t go into FEMA analogies here.
But this bill calls for more fence. Of course, a fence, by itself, is not a total solution. It must be supplemented. That’s why we’ve included provisions for more radar, aircraft, vehicle barriers and more border patrol agents in this bill.
GCN: Section 413 of the new bill is said to contain a Trojan Horse that would diminish America’s sovereignty by subjecting the United States to a “North American Union.” Is this true and why are we repeatedly hearing about efforts to create just such a union?
Lott: I would never support anything that I felt diminished America’s sovereignty. Section 413 of S.1638 is titled ‘Bilateral Efforts with Mexico to Reduce Migration Pressures and Costs’. This section requires for studies to be conducted, findings be made, and actions taken to reduce the incentives for Mexican nationals to enter the US illegally. Specifically targeted are improving the overall economic system in Mexico (especially the rural areas) and addressing the strain that undocumented Mexican immigrants have on the US health care system.
I have always strongly defended this nation’s sovereignty, and I’ll continue to do so. If I thought this bill was some sinister precursor to an America where our security was somehow tied to Canada or Mexico, I’d certainly oppose it.
But, this is an immigration bill. That’s it. What we’re tying to do is say is: Look, the current situation with illegal immigration is not acceptable. In fact, it’s intolerable. Our borders are not secure. There is actually a terrorist risk here. We need to secure the border. We need to change our legal and illegal system. We need to stop chain migration where somebody comes into this country legally and they try to bring an endless number of “relatives” with them. So, we need to get a grip on immigration overall. It’s easier said than done.
A lot of people saying: “Look, build a fence, enforce the border, enforce the law first.” I think there is merit to that. But, it still won’t resolve the problem of chain migration. What to do with the people who are here. How do we deal with different businesses and industries who need workers?
I understand people have different views, and I understand how they believe there government hasn’t done what it should have done. We’re just trying to work through that. There’s no hidden motive here. All I’ve tried to do is find a way to get a positive result.
GCN: Something obviously must be done about illegal immigration. So far, there seems to be no end to it and so far the public has seen no bill as holding a solution. Why hasn’t Congress insisted that the administration enforce the existing laws?
Lott: Again, that’s an understandable question, and the answer is that several Presidents and several Congresses have failed to do what needed to be done. But, this isn’t the 1980s. Post 9/11, Americans are very aware that today we face significant economic and security threats posed by our porous borders, and there’s more grass roots demand that something be done.
This bill is designed to ensure that the administration implements several conservative reforms. It provides the resources – be they technological, financial, or human – to enforce our immigration laws and protect our borders.
I – like the American public – will continue to encourage the administration to enforce all of the laws that are passed by Congress. That being said, I feel that many of the reforms in this immigration bill would make the enforcement of immigration regulations much easier and more efficient.
About the Author.....
Perry Hicks is the senior writer and Washington correspondent for GCN. He is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel. Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics. Perry is a frequent contributor to GCN writing on stories of national importance with local interests. His articles can be found in the GCN Archive.
Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org