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Bush's Plan Is Too Soft on Illegals

By Mark Davis

After the debacles surrounding Harriet Miers and Dubai Ports World, Republicans in Congress do not cherish the notion of delivering another blow to a president they generally support.

Additionally, those of us who voted for him twice and remain thankful he won do not thrill to the notion of another protracted season of mixed feelings.

But there is no other option, as President Bush's Monday night immigration speech sends his supporters to bang their heads on a well-worn brick wall.

One of the bruised foreheads is mine. I want to take the clarity and resolve he has shown on the war and graft it into the part of his brain that continues to offer up this ridiculous guest worker program.

Let's move beyond whether it is "amnesty," a term whose meaning varies from person to person. Let's go to the specifics. The president wants you to know that illegal aliens should have to pay "a meaningful penalty for breaking the law: to pay their taxes, to learn English and to work in a job for a number of years."

I can hear the laughter of illegals already as they realize that the Bush plan will allow some of them to stay exactly where they are in exactly the job they came here illegally to fill, with no price except the same obligations every citizen has already - work, pay your taxes, speak English.

Meanwhile, the suckers who are obeying the law wait patiently in their home countries wondering when the gate will kick open for them. I lose count tallying the people who should be insulted by this.

There were parts of the speech I did not hate. The deployment of the National Guard at the border is largely window dressing, but appearances mean things.

The president's plans for toughening the border, cracking down on businesses hiring illegals and fashioning a high-tech ID to prove legal employability are all fine. I'll believe them when I see them.

Meanwhile, part of constructive criticism involves moving past complaining into the bolder realm of suggesting improvements.

As with so many other problems, solutions are easy to find but hard to enact because they require guts and tenacity and the willingness to stand up to people who really don't want the problem solved.

So, at the risk of offending mightily those who have made excuses for lawbreakers ranging from our borders to the business community, here's what will work. These are not options; they are requirements. Take away one element, and the whole plan is useless.

1. Get serious about border control. A real wall. A virtual wall. Thousands more Border Patrol agents. Take your pick, but we must shut down the cascades of illegals who started the problem and who threaten to perpetuate it.

2. Enact 100 percent deportation of every illegal we find. No more hand-wringing about families. I have the same empathy for those kids that I do for the kids of criminals who must go to jail, leaving children without parents. At least with deportation, the family remains intact - they simply return to the country the parents unwisely chose to leave.

And no more nonsense about the impossibility of finding all of them. No one pretends we can find every illegal immigrant, every speeder, every dope smoker, but we find the ones we can, recognizing that behaviors made illegal tend to decrease.

3. Crack down on employers who hire illegals, thus drying up the job market that attracts them. This cannot be done without a high-tech ID system that provides a card proving a job applicant's legal employability. The expense of this will be considerable, but considerably less than the toll illegal immigration takes on our society every year.

4. Develop a sensible citizenship application process that enables a limited number of candidates to apply easily from their home countries upon verification of a clean criminal record and a signed commitment to achieve English proficiency.

Great leaders know when compromise is appropriate and when it is not. This is not a tax cut debate or even a stem cell debate. It is a battle for what kind of country we are going to have.

Mr. Bush has protected us from terrorists since 9/11, and I am eternally grateful. But now it appears it will be up to others to protect us from his massive blind spot on immigration.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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