Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ben Nelson's Iron Curtain

by Kyle Michaelis
Immigration reform is clearly going to be a focus of the 2006 Congress, not to mention the 2006 elections. With President Bush having lost the people's trust in Iraq and unwilling to tackle (or even admit to) the nation's health care crisis, this seems the lone issue on which Republicans think they can really capture the public's support because people recognize the problem and want a solution.

The problem is that many of these proposals, including the most recent by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, too closely resemble a "final solution" that fundamentally betray the American character and our national heritage.

Quite simply, I am appalled by Nelson's contribution to this important debate. His "Border Security Act of 2005", co-sponsored by Republican Senators "Crazy" Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is so extremist in its call for a police-state along the southern border that it sickens and dismays me as an American and a Nelson supporter.

The "key elements" of this bill include:
Southwest border Security: Provides for the construction of a border fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, employs additional border patrol agents, and coordinates aerial surveillance with the Department of Defense.

Federal, State, Local Law Enforcement: Provides federal enforcement resources in the form of additional personnel and equipment to support border security, establishes a new Assistant Attorney General position within the U.S. Department of Justice and adds more U.S. attorneys and immigration judges, provides for additional worksite investigators, and increases the number of detention facilities by nearly 50%. Clarifies that state and local law enforcement officers have the authority to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law, and requires that aliens who don’t show up for their immigration hearings or who are under final orders of removal are listed in the National Crime Information System database, making it easier for state and local law enforcement officers to locate them.

Penalties and Enforcement: Increases penalties for illegal aliens who willfully fail to depart from the United States and for illegal aliens who make fraudulent statements on identification documents. Makes alien criminal gang members inadmissible and deportable.

Honestly, most of these are reasonable and probably necessary changes. But the proposed border fence (described in the Omaha World-Herald as "two parallel fences with a road corridor to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border") is so abhorrent an idea that it renders the entire plan objectionable, if not outright despicable.

While I appreciate Nelson's pragmatic choice to secure the border before addressing the larger issues of immigration reform (such as enforcement on employers and the handling of illegal immigrants already in the country), this plan's raw extremism clearly demonstrates the danger of not taking a more comprehensive approach. It reaches far beyond the limits of conscience in true draconian fashion, foolishly seeking to wipe-out a "problem" comprised of human beings seeking a better life. As such, they (and we, as a country) deserve more humane, multi-faceted, and dare I say American legislation.

For more on the still-developing immigration issue, including the perspectives of those seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Nelson in 2006, read this World-Herald article. Though unclear from the article, it appears Nelson's uncharacteristic bit of fanaticism - his iron curtain - would be rivaled only by Don Stenberg, from whom such a radically bad idea would be far more expected.


Anonymous Cowpunk said...

While I don't like Nelson or necessarily agree with the specifics of his plan, I have to admit that this is a very shrewd political maneuver. As a longtime listener to right wing radio shows, this I know for sure: Immigration is the one issue that can tear the Republican party apart. This view was only reinforced while I was canvassing for ACT in a low rent section of Council Bluffs last year. It is a BIG issue for lots of poor folks.

I've been saying for years that if the Democrats could come up with a plan, any plan, to allay middle America's fears about illegal aliens, they'd kick some major ass. Yes, I am actually talking about moving to the right of Republican leaders on this issue. That wouldn't be too hard. While Bush has made some noise about immigration recently, his heart is not in it at all. He knows big business doesn't want to live without the cheap labor of illegals. He also knows that a day of reckoning is coming if he doesn't at least pretend to be doing something about it.

Maybe this all sounds very cynical, but honestly I don't see the harm in actually enforcing our border policies. In fact I think national security demands it, now more than ever. I am against the idea of pricks like Bill O'Reilly to throw people in jail just for trying to get in this country, though. A more compassionate solution is needed.

As with many other issues, the "leaders" of the Democratic party seem to think that they can just sit back and watch the Republicans implode. They will have to fill the vacuum this creates with SOMETHING, or the opportunity will be missed. Kudos to Ben Nelson for at least making an effort.


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