George W. Obama and immigration fantasies

By Bernd Debusmann
June 4, 2010

In the waning days of his presidency, George W. Bush listed the failure of immigration reform as one of his biggest disappointments and deplored the tone of the immigration debate. It had, he said in December 2008, undermined “the true greatness of America which is that we welcome people who want to work”.

The way things look a year and a half into the administration of Barack Obama, he too may end his presidency deploring the failure to fix America’s dysfunctional immigration system. The tone of the debate is even more rancorous now than it was when Bush pushed reform and it features the same arguments, including the fantasy that you can fully control the frontier between the U.S. and Mexico, the world’s busiest border.

That illusory target was set in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed into law by George W. Bush on October 26 of that year. It provided a definition of the term “operational control”, one of the most frequently used buzz phrases of the debate. (The other is “securing the border”). Under the letter of the law, operational control means “the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.”

Note the word “all”. Then contrast it with what is at stake: almost 7,500 miles of land borders (with Mexico and Canada), 12,300 miles of coastline and a vast network of airports, seaports and land crossings. In the long-running debate, sound bites alone could fill a library and one of the best came from Janet Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona: “Show me a 50-foot wall and I show you a 51-foot ladder.”

That quote has history on its side. There has never been an impenetrable border. Not the Great Wall of China, the 5,500-mile mother of all walls, not the Berlin Wall, not the Iron Curtain, the lethal system of walls, fences, minefields and watch towers manned by guards with shoot-to-kill orders that sliced 2,500 miles through Europe.

Napolitano, now head of the Department of Homeland Security, the 160,000-strong bureaucratic behemoth charged with ensuring “operational control”, no longer uses the wall-and-ladder simile. Instead, she talks of the need for “comprehensive immigration reform”, as does her boss, Barack Obama, and as did George W. Bush.

Bush’s attempt to push through a reform addressing all aspects of the complex, emotion-laden issue fell through because he could not convince legislators in his own Republican party that there should be a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. Obama does not have enough votes in the Senate for a reform bill.

And leading Republicans insist that there must be a sequence in any changes to what everybody agrees is a broken system. “First…we have to secure the border. If you want to enact other reforms, how can that be effective when you have a porous border,” says John McCain, the Arizona senator who once championed an all-encompassing package.

He and others have not explained what exactly they mean by “secure border”. If that stands for keeping “all” illegal crossers out, it’s difficult to see how there could ever be reform. Largely symbolic gestures, such as Obama’s decision in May to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico, will make little difference on the ground.

By ordering the troops’ deployment, Obama trod in the footsteps of Bush, who dispatched 6,000 National Guard troops to the border in 2006 to back up the Border Patrol and help build several hundred miles of walls and fences. In both cases, the measures were meant to win bi-partisan support for overall reform.

That would need to include figuring out a way to keep track of people who enter the U.S. on valid visas and stay behind when they expire. With attention focused on the border, visa overstayers rarely figure in the debate but they are estimated to make up around 40 percent of the population of illegal immigrants.

How to handle them has been the thorniest problem of all, with conservatives decrying as “amnesty” proposals to work out a way to legal status. Public attitudes are somewhat schizophrenic, judging from opinion polls.

A poll late in May by the Opinion Research Corporation, for example, showed 80 percent in favor of a program that would allow illegal immigrants who have already lived in the U.S. for several years to apply for legal status if they had a job and paid any taxes owed. But in response to a differently-phrased question, 60 percent supported deporting illegal immigrants already in the country.

Last year, according to government figures, the U.S. deported 387,790 illegal immigrants — an average of more than 1,000 a day and a tiny fraction of the undocumented population. Wholesale deportation of all of it belongs as much in the world of fantasy as the idea that “all unlawful entries” could be stopped.

To show how unrealistic the notion of mass deportation is, the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, crunched some numbers in a recent report on immigration. Assuming that they could all be tracked down, how many buses would it take to ferry out all illegal immigrants?

Around 200,000. Placed bumper-to-bumper, the buses would stretch 1,800 miles.


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It appears to me that the Democrats are already implementing their version of immigration reform. If they continue to tax, regulate and and move toward a command economy, America will no longer be the “land of opportunity” and nobody will want to come here – legally or illegally.

Posted by K-Bay | Report as abusive

After reading over several of these highly motivated and passionate debates over illegal immigration, I would like to add that after speaking with many friends and family on this issue, the concenous appears to be the same….we “white” people (and not every1 in my family in white) don’t want the immigrants to be mistreated and/or separated from their families. They desire a better life (as we all do) and obviously are not able to achieve that in their own country so who wouldn’t want to try and achieve the “American Dream”. Afterall that dream is just within their reach and albiet frustating to be so close, yet so far. There are no clear solutions to the problem but a step in the right direction is long overdue. Our own government is creating the animosity amongst it’s people and the immigrants because of their lack of finding a plausible solution. Whatever happened to holding the employers who hire them being held accountable. I personally worked for a company that had over 180 spanish workers and my job was to verify their “legal” status, i.e., social security numbers. Out of those 180, only 2 had ssn that could be verified yet we had to agree not to fire them, only bring it to their attention. After reporting this to the owner of the company…his solution..don’t worry about it, they will just go and get hired elsewhere. Of course, he was only paying them min. wage and was raking in the profits. The illegals were claiming all their dependents back in Mexico (that couldn’t be confirmed) so they weren’t paying any federal taxes. Wanna fix the national deficit? Start with demanding proof of dependents and collect all the back taxes owed. The resentment is building and it’s not because we “white people” don’t like immigrants. If you desire a better life and want to live and work in America, then do as the rest of “Americans” have to. Pay your taxes, become legal, etc., etc., If you are here legally, I welcome you. If you are not, go home and come back when you can contribute to the American Dream, not steal it away. There are no jobs left, because you have them all, there is no help from the states for the ones who have lived here all of the lives, because you are receiving the help that was meant for the taxpayers. The bottom line is we welcome anyone with open arms that will have the ability to contribute to our country, not milk it dry.

Posted by chenoa7z7 | Report as abusive

If a fence is not needed at the border, then take the one around the White House down. Come to America because you love what she stands for, not to over-run our laws to get what you want! Many came before us and died for the right to make the laws we have on our books. These laws should be enforced until acceptable reform can be debated and voted into law!

Posted by obeyourlaws | Report as abusive

I find it ironic and quite funny that those who decry Obama as a socialist call for national ID cards, the restriction of free trade and population control. These things are the tools of totalitarian governments, not the USA. I’d be willing to bet many of those calling for such measures call themselves conservatives. We are a nation of laws, but we have proven time and again that unjust laws should not be followed. Illegal border crossings would be relegated to actual criminals if our immigration laws were not so ridiculous and restrictive. Open the borders to those who wish to come here for work and they will enter our country through the proper entry points. Then we will know who the enemy truly is.

Posted by indieinfla | Report as abusive

Hello Bernd,

1. Every civilized country struggles to eliminate own mobs. Low income, uneducated mobs are the most vulnerable part of population. The share of social benefits that goes to them eclipses any of their contribution many times over. They slow to adjust to ever changing society. As result they prone to social unrest and tend to create subcultures that hard to integrate back to mainstream society
(1980-90′s Riots by Turks in Germany, 2000′s – Riots by Arabs in France, History Blacks and Latinos in USA).

Now you are advocating take responsibility for another 12,000,000 of them?

Here why your arguments don’t hold water:

1. 12,000,000 Illegals found way in. Once US will make their employment impossible most of them will find way out.

2. 200,000 Buses in 1800 mile line. I ride bus every morning – 1000′s buses rush over 500,000′s passengers from suburbs to NYC and back every day. In 2 weeks they would ferry all 12,000,000 just give them a chance.

3. in 1986 reagan gave amnesty to 3,000,000 illegals now USA has 12,000,000. Do we need 36,000,000 in another 20 yrs?

Posted by sk_usa | Report as abusive

Maybe the US should never have started a war with Mexico and stolen half of their territory. Then this wouldn’t be a problem….
Isn’t history a bitch when it bites you in the ass?

Posted by HistoryMatters | Report as abusive

The problem with US immigration laws are two: First, the laws are being ignored, primarily by Mexican Nationals, and second, by the Obama Administration which is not enforcing US Immigration Law. Thank you Sheriff Joe!

The vast majority of the American people do not want ILLEGAL immigrants in the US because they know that it costs them more than $500 BILLION dollars every year to support them. 45% of ALL hispanic families recieve some sort of federal or state financial assistance.

More than ONE MILLION sex crimes have been perpetrated since 1999 by ILLEGALS. 35% of those crimes have been against children, and 24% of those crimes have been rapes. On average, 12 Americans every year are killed by ILLEGALS who have INFILTRATED every nook and cranny in the USA, aided and abetted by St Mary’s Food Bank Alliance which has more than 500 food banks scattered across America to funnel free food to ILLEGALS. They must go home.

The US Chamber of Commerce supports ILLEGALS because they want to exploit these people at the expense of the US worker and Taxpayer for the benefit of their member corporations. Wages are a function of the demand and supply of labor. American jobs for American workers!

Recently, Ranch Markets in Phoenix had to fire 300 workers because they were ILLEGAL. 300 American citizens now have jobs. When 30 million ILLEGALS leave America, American workers will receive a living wage again.

This INVASION has been designed and implemented by a Satanic Catholic Priesthood who desire a Catholic Empire from Pole to Pole, to fill the pews and coffers that white catholics have vacated, and to develop new generations of children to sodomize.

Those that support these INVADERS the most are the same individuals, organizations, and groups that exploit these people the most; either for sex, money, or political power.

30 million Nationals of a Foreign Power, must go home! American Sovereignty is at stake!

Posted by zukadu | Report as abusive

I don’t understand the problem with this issue…In fact, it is very simple. The author misses a very fundamental point..America has alwasy welcomed people who work hard but it also welcomed people who got here LEGALLY….duhhh remember Ellis Island. They sent tons of people back to their original countries because they didn’t want them here. Now all of a sudden, we can’t do that…Please.

First, find a way to really punish employers who hire workers that are in the country illegally. Second, give local police the authority to arrest anyone who is discovered to be in the country illegally…Before anyone says anything about race, I want to say that i don’t care if they are chinese, cambodian Mexican or Canadian….if they are found to be here illegally….SEND THEM HOME… Every other country in the freakin world does that. Why can’t we? Third, set up a work visa program for people who want to come here to work because their own country is too economically weak to support the number of people it has. I mean seriously…America is the only country in the world where people can get away with calling someone a racist because they want their borders secure…Come one people! This is an easy problem to fix if you don’t inflame it with rhetoric that has nothing to do with the issue.

Call me racist…call me whatever..but if I go to Mexico without a passport, they will send my butt back lickety split and probably throw me in some Mexican jail in the process until it is all worked out.

Posted by robotman2009 | Report as abusive

I desperately need your help because I wanted to deepen my computer science, but I have a problem because I do not have your own computer, so please help your hand to my account number on behalf GHOSALI 6518-01-011463-53-7 BRI. no matter how small your help means a lot to me

Posted by ghosalisuli | Report as abusive

if we all decide to use mexicans as a pone whos next , its all politcal joke , see what next . let do whats right,
Use them to help stop injustice. We have Good and bad in all type of people ,education is the key to resolve problems. (Food and shelter). Watch the $. And stop the hate

Posted by peoplefirst | Report as abusive

Here is a thought – Follow the law. This country was built from people migrating to the USA to make a better life for themselves. I support this completely and believe that we need to have clear comprehensive requirements to come to USA either to work or live. But I tired of being referred to as someone who hate Hispanics because I want the law enforced. It is not hatred, it’s the law. People broke the law and this bothers me, when it is a law that you don’t agree with its okay just ignore it. I say deport anyone who is in the country illegally. Not because I hate them but because that is the Law. I am sick of this debate like there is an option on whether or not to enforce the law this is the law follow it, to all the people who wine about it I understand where you are coming from, but smoking in a bar is illegal now and it’s the law so if I own a bar don’t follow the law and let people smoke will you look the other way and let me do what I believe is okay or will you force me to follow the LAW and want my business license revoked? That is my problem with the whole debate. Enforce the law evenly and justly and lets secure the border, put a system in place that helps everyone and move on.

Posted by JAFOINMN | Report as abusive

You do not have to deport them. Just make it impossible for them work while illegally in the USA and they will have to leave on their own!

If they can not work or get welfare here, then they will be poorer here then they would be in Mexico!

Posted by HeatherGirl | Report as abusive

Illegal immigrants is some what a form of wage slavery,the fact you think it’s appropriate for people to take advantage is awful.We can’t absorb all the world poor,we are not that rich.fences won’t keep all illegals out but it will keep out many.And if we can secure borders for foreign nation like Iraq and Afghanistan,we can for ourselves.Mexico dumps it’s poor on our nation so they aren’t a burden to the rich and middle class in Mexico,one of the world richest nations.The more legal and illegal skilled and unskilled that come here lower wages all Americans workers.Why are you more concerned with illegals than American citizens who are going broke being used by politicians and Corporations.Want to help others than work for a universal minimum wage so people aren’t exploited by governments and corporations.

Posted by faeyth | Report as abusive

Anyone who enters a country illegally is a criminal and should be treated as such. Every country in the world does this. No one has the right to illegally enter a country not of his birth. America is no different.

If you enter the USA illegally you are a terrorist according to the Patriot Act. So Mexicans and any other nationality should be tried as terrorist. They are enemies of our country as they have entered illegally.

That is why immigration was invented. If you cannot read English too bad. Go to school like everyone else and then do the paper work and get legal entrance into the country. If you cannot get an education, you have no value to our country stay out. We don’t need you.

I live in a foreign country not of my birth. Took me 3 days to do the paper work and waiting another month. So if I can do it, so can the illegal aliens.

The other thing that needs to be done it that Americans that harbor illegal aliens should be put in prison for up the 20 years as traitors. The police need to put out rewards up to $1000 for information leading to the arrest of Americans using illegals in their place of business. Where the business directors and officers are fined up to $1,000,000 and 40 years in prison for hiring illegal aliens, with minimum fines of $500,000 and 2 years in prison. This alone would cut half of the problems right away. Because these guys are the ones producing the demand. They are no different than drug lords. Case in Point the board of directors and CEO of Wall-Mart who hire illegal aliens. Make them or some one like them an example and a lot of the problem will be solved.


Posted by eddd | Report as abusive

Also embedding RFID trackers into the blood stream of illegal aliens will allow police to find repeats more easily. This should be mandatory. The more we tag the more we can find. Perhaps even putting WI-FI GPS trackers into the blood stream may also prove beneficial, as we can get a signal as soon as they near our border.

We have done it to animals for years, people are not different. Should be no trouble at all. Proven technology. It will keep our country safe.


Posted by eddd | Report as abusive

So we let you in (10 million), and don’t secure the boarder. Five years from now 5 million more sneak in, when does it end? When everyone in Mexico lives here?

No country in the world including Mexico would tolerate that. A fence won’t work, once you cross it. So we need to make it impossible from them to make a living here.

In protest of California, I propose we stop tipping all Hispanics, we are just subsidizing their income. Once the money dries up, they will leave. Maybe they will fix their country, and the last one out, please turn off the lights.

Posted by mikew194 | Report as abusive

“Anyone who enters a country illegally is a criminal and should be treated as such.”

Unless, of course, the law of that country do not treat it as a crime – or even better, unless that country lets anybody enter legally (case in point: the Vatican)

“No one has the right to illegally enter a country not of his birth.”

Birth is just one criterion among many others. One may have legal “right of abode” in a country without being born there. One may also be a citizen of a country without being born there.

“America is no different”

Actuelly, America is different in the fact that it grants citizenship to almost everybody (the exception being for children of diplomats) born on its territory.


Also, please note that being here illegally is only a “civil violation”, not a crime. Some may enter legally but may be here “out of status” – and would not be criminals.

“If you cannot get an education, you have no value to our country stay out. We don’t need you.”

I was thinking the exact same thing when reading your post.

Posted by olwagner | Report as abusive

It saddens me to read many of these posts. There are many uneducated and scared people who now have a voice provided by the internet. I would think that those uneducated individuals might try to educate themselves given the massive amount of information readily available at their fingertips. Those of you who think being in this country without legal status is the equivalent of committing a felony, please research the actual penalty. I realize many of you want to be the next coming of Hannity, Beck or O’Reiley. I don’t begrudge you your dreams, but please do some research before you post. It might add some credibility to your positions.

Posted by indieinfla | Report as abusive

Whether it be a civil violation, misdemeanor, or felony, the illegal crossing of frontiers implies non-recognition of the target country’s borders, as does non-enforcement on the part of the target country’s government.

No enforcement = no borders. No borders = no nation.

Posted by Mega | Report as abusive

I grew up in California at a time that Hispanics out number the rest of us. Why? In part because California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas used to be part of Mexico and in part because we encouraged farm labor to come to the US when we needed them but tried to kick them out when we didn’t. I have three nephews who are Hispanic on their father’s side, a family that has been in the U.S. since before it became the U.S. They have complained about being stopped for “driving while Mexican.” (If the police don’t find a reason to give them a ticket, there is no record of profiling.) And now someone wants to cheat a Hispanic waiter out of the tip he has earned to force them to go “home.” Sounds more like being a cheapskate since they are home.

Posted by BocaBob | Report as abusive