No match, no papers, no problem

It is said politics makes strange bedfellows. In this case, let’s call it bizarre bedfellows. There are few issues on which I normally agree with Colorado conservative Rep. Tom Tancredo. But when it comes to illegal immigration, we’re somewhat in sync.

Tancredo’s one-issue presidential campaign is aimed at boosting visibility for a no-tolerance approach to illegal immigration. He is introducing legislation to overturn last week’s zany federal court ruling that bars the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from sending out “no-match” letters to potential companies that hire illegal immigrants.

The letters were supposed to be sent to employers who hire workers with fake or incorrect Social Security numbers. DHS had almost 9 million of those letters ready to go prior to the preliminary injunction. The effort was to be one prong of the Bush administration’s first serious attempt to control the nation’s borders — an effort which to this point has been feckless at best.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the plan, “would result in irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.” He based his ruling on the claim that enforcement of the law would place a financial burden on employers and lead to legal workers being fired because of errors.

Immigrant and employee rights advocates — pushing for a pathway to citizenship for the United States’ estimated 12 million illegals (in fact, the Center for Immigration Studies claims the number is more like 20 million) — hailed Judge Breyer’s ruling as a triumph.

There is nothing more ridiculous than a hands-in-the-air, “we can’t do anything—they’re here” approach to illegal immigration. Even Mexico, which frequently complains about U.S. efforts to enforce our borders, does a better job of enforcing Mexican borders than we do. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, reported in August, “Mexico has begun the repatriation of some 7,000 Central American undocumented immigrants, mostly to Honduras and Guatemala, local newspaper Sol de Mexico quoted government officials as saying…”

We could do a much better job of evicting those who are here illegally.

And we certainly can start by eliminating the candy in the window that lures illegals here in the first place.

For example, there are 10 states that do not require proof of lawful presence (in the state) before issuing a driver’s license, including Maryland, Montana and Oregon. New York’s Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer who rode into office on a tsunami of public support, is watching his poll numbers sink precipitously as he tangles with the state legislature over his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He should have learned from the experience of California Gov. Gray Davis, who was unceremoniously booted out of the governor’s mansion after signing a law to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. Driver’s licenses line the path to gainful employment, finding a place to live and so on. It’s a hand-out that should not be given away to law breakers.

Speaking of counter-productive incentives, some states grant in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants. All the children of illegal immigrants have access to free public education. Federal law requires hospitals to give costly emergency care free to illegal immigrants, so that many emergency rooms have closed down in recent years, unable to break even.

Let me restate as I always do when I tackle this most touchy of issues:

Immigrants are good people. Most of them work hard and merely want economic opportunity for themselves and their families. It is mass immigration that is bad, because it is boosting U.S. population to the point where we’re degrading the environment and the quality of life for native-born Americans, legal immigrants and their families.

That’s why I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Rep. Tancredo that the “no match” law ought to be placed back into effect and thoroughly enforced. The more benefits we give away, the more illegal immigrants we attract. The more we pretend we can’t enforce our own laws or protect our own borders, the more we as a nation look like fools.

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)