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Let's stop the illegals' straw talk

| Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The fact that illegals will have to fulfill certain requirements to become American citizens is supposed to mean that this is not amnesty?

The immigration bill before Congress has some of the most serious consequences for the future of this country. Yet it is not being discussed seriously by most politicians or most of the media. Instead, it is being discussed in a series of glib talking points that insult our intelligence.

Some of the most momentous consequences -- a major increase in the number of immigrants admitted legally -- are not even being discussed at all by those who wrote the Senate bill, though Sen. Jeff Sessions has uncovered those provisions in the bill and brought them out into the light of day.

How many times have we heard that illegal aliens are taking "jobs that Americans won't do"• Just what specifically are those jobs• Even in occupations where illegals are concentrated, such as agriculture, cleaning, construction and food preparation, the great majority of the work still is being done by people who are not illegal aliens.

The highest concentration of illegals is in agriculture, where they are 24 percent of the people employed. That means three-quarters of the people are not illegal aliens. But when will the glib phrase-mongers stop telling us that the illegals are simply taking "jobs that Americans won't do"?

Another insult to our intelligence is that amnesty is not amnesty if you call it something else. The fact that illegals will have to fulfill certain requirements to become American citizens is supposed to mean that this is not amnesty?

But let's do what the spinmeisters hope we will never do -- stop and think. Amnesty is overlooking ("forgetting," as in amnesia) the violation of the law committed by those who have crossed our borders illegally.

The fact that there are requirements for getting American citizenship is a separate issue entirely. Illegal aliens who do not choose to seek American citizenship are under no more jeopardy than before. They have de facto amnesty.

Yet another insult to our intelligence is saying that since we cannot find and deport 12 million people, the only choice left is to find some way to make them legal.

There is probably no category of lawbreakers -- from counterfeiters to burglars or from jaywalkers to murderers -- who can all be found and arrested. But no one suggests that we must therefore make what they have done legal.

Such an argument would suggest that there is nothing in between 100 percent effective law enforcement and zero percent effective law enforcement.

The reverse twist on this argument is that suddenly taking 12 million people out of the labor force would disrupt the economy. No one has ever said -- or probably even dreamed -- that we could suddenly find all 12 million illegal immigrants at once and send them all home immediately. This is another straw man argument.

And why are people who are so gung-ho for punishing employers so utterly silent about needing to punish government officials who openly and deliberately violate federal laws?

If some guy who runs a hardware store or a dry-cleaning business hires someone who shows some forged documents, why should the employer be fined for not being able to tell the difference when government officials who can tell the difference are not doing anything?

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

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