I spent the length of "The Speech" on the phone last night, and so didn't get a chance to hear it first hand. However, I did get the chance to read it, and have heard the reactions of many voices, from lawmakers, to border patrol agents, to border-living citizens, to regular folk like you and me.
After parsing those thoughts, and the ones that were my immediate reactions to the speech, I have come to some opinions.
There are, by estimate, between 12 and 20 million (maybe more - if we could track them and count them, we could "ask" them to leave) illegals within the borders of the country right now. A "proposal" from the President, or anyone else for that matter, and that's all it is, a proposal, that seeks to address the two-pronged problem of border security AND how to deal with those already here illegally, only waters down the critical points of both issues into a clear broth without much nutritional value in each direction.
A law out of the House will do the same, under this same outline. Therefore, a discussion regarding each item separately:
First: Border Security. Let's face it, you can couch this all day long as an issue with all border crossings into the US, but at the end of the day, the southern border of our country is a shambles and a rotting symbol of the impotence of our government to come to a viable "secure" measure to CLOSE the border in areas where there is not a manned crossing. I am from Canada. I don't know how many times I have been across the border into/out of Canada from here. I would hazard a guess to say that it numbers in the DOZENS of times. I think I have been across almost every border crossing into or out of the states along the Alberta/British Columbia border area - a distance of several hundred miles. This doesn't include the MANY international airports I have flown into, effectively crossing the border through customs at that time as well.
Without fail, every time I cross, I have to provide my proper documentation, which includes my proof of legal residency here.
In that area of the country, the other parts of the border are cordoned off with a fence, even in the most difficult mountainous areas. Crossing through the fence will get you arrested and detained. Why is it then, that we cannot expect this nation's government to enforce that same policy along our southern borders? There are a few lawmakers calling for the erection of a high concrete fence along the southern border. There are others calling for that fence in only the remotest locations, so as to "herd" the traffic to more easily patrolled areas, such as ACTUAL LEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS... and thereby protecting the rights of (legal) property owners who live along those border areas.
How many years and how many salaried bodies does it take to provide the money to get that done? And moreover, how long does it take for us to enact laws with teeth that actually PUNISH those that cross illegally, either by providing false documentation, or simply by running across the desert? I dare say the days of chain-link are through. Leaving it the way it is makes a mockery of the actual border crossings that exist and are staffed with Federal personnel. It's either sealed or it's not. I think it should be. No forthcoming bill with have teeth anywhere close to this sort of action.
Incidentally, it was the Minuteman group who said they were prepared to begin building fence on private land, with landowners' authorization, and with public funding, beginning May 15th, if the Federal Government didn't take some sort of stand by that date - that was yesterday. The Utah Minutemen (speaking for the national organization) are not really pleased with the thoughts put forward by the President. Their next move remains to be seen.
Second: Amnesty/Legalization of current criminals. The president stated that offering citizenship, or legalization to those already here is amnesty, and he doesn't support that. In fact, that is basically what he did, however. He mentioned a plan under which those that are already here illegally would be put into either a guest worker program, or would be put to the "back of the line" in terms of gaining access to legal residency/citizenship. There are several problems with this approach. First of all, there are about 20 million of these people, all of whom don't give a rat's arse about obeying any law, as proven by their very presence here.
How does the President expect to bring them out of the woodwork to get into such a program in a manageable way? He mentioned different categories of people here, based on length of time in the country, proven ability to hold a job, obey the laws, etc. These people would be put at the back of the line for legal residency applications.
How does he propose to allow these people to PROVE where they've been, what they've been doing, and whether they can obey the law? We have no records of these people. False documentation is unfortunately a problem with a large percentage of this group of people. They've already proven themselves as people who don't mind disregarding the laws here. Does he just expect them to willingly show up for this voluntarily? He mentioned that they would also be forced to pay some sort of monetary penalty as part of this program. Umm, aren't these people COMPLAINING that they are the low-wage earners of America already? Does he expect this money will magically appear? This will be a totally unmanageable Fuster-Cluck. Given the typical paradigm we're dealing with here, that money WILL in fact magically appear seemingly out of nowhere. Should it be sourced and seasoned for 60 days in a proper bank account? OOPS! These people SHOULDN'T HAVE a proper bank account, because you need legal and proper documents to be able to open a bank account. (Don't get me started on the financial institutions' total neglect in the area of "proper documentation" in order to open a bank account.)
Then there's the "guest worker" program. It's the one where you come here legally, for a time, work, and then go home. Right. Wait wait, I have an emerging primate, and it's got WINGS!!
The one part of the speech I support in principle is the unique identifier card. For many years, the usual Social Security Card has been an easily rendered document. Although it's printed on the same cotton paper as our money, it's the most easily counterfeited document out there. On the other hand, my "Permanent Resident Alien" card has no less than 8 unique identifiers that make it impossible, or at least BRUTALLY expensive, to copy in a format that would actually pass muster.
Additionally, that card has parts that have embedded information, like the magnetic strip in the back of your credit card - except this one isn't magnetic. This area contains all sorts of information about me, my address, SSN, Country of origin, the results of my medical tests that were required for entry into the US, the consulate where I applied, etc. A MYRIAD of information. This card, while not underestimating the criminal mind, would not be reproduced easily.
Which brings me around to the other point. There was only cursory mention of an aspect here that I believe is critical to the success of any program of reform in this area: That of gaining a viable and usable person-verification program to be MANDATORY for all employers' use. If there was a way to make it mandatory for an employer to provide a security authorization code to the government, proving that they logged in to the authorization database and got a positive response, along with the other forms that have to be completed to begin paying an employee, there would be a much greater possibility that we would nip a big part of this whole problem in the bud.
Let's face it - if a company CAN'T remain in business without having to pay employees 1.75 per hour, they shouldn't be in business. And if these jobs were not out there, there would be less temptation to get across the border to take.
The bottom line for me: If this problem is not addressed in a tough and meaningful way very soon, there will always be an illegal third class of people here who will never be allowed to move above the limits of this day-laborer classification. I don't care what Vicente Fox says, I don't care what the pansy congress and house say, it HAS to be done. I'm all for all that crap written on the plaque at Ellis Island. Just do it legally. I did. It's hard, long and expensive - which makes it more sweet when it gets done.