The American public sent a strong message last week to President Bush and the U.S. Congress. The defeat of Senate Bill 1639, the so-called Comprehensive Immigration Bill, was spelled out in bold letters across a virtual wall for the entire nation to read.
The “wall” is the barrier the public is demanding be placed across the entire U.S.-Mexican border. Only a physical structure of substantial proportions will stop the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who now slip into the United States, unhindered, every year. The 12 to 20 million illegal aliens presently in the United States arrived in the same manner.
The public has at last spoken with the “bi-partisan” defeat of Senate Bill 1639. Republicans, 37 in number, separating themselves from President Bush, joined with 15 Democrats and one Independent in a procedural vote that killed what was essentially an amnesty bill. Many Senators reported their offices were overwhelmed by the e-mails, faxes, telegrams and phone calls from constituents who opposed it.
Some Senators blamed radio talk show hosts with encouragement to flood Congressional offices with phone calls, faxes and emails. This activity caught the attention of U.S. Senator Trent Lott, R-Miss., who suggested some sort of measures may be needed in the future to control talk radio.
Senator Lott during the original heated debate sessions repeatedly admonished fellow Senators with the comment “Are we mice or men?” On leaving the Senate Chamber on one occasion, he called to the press, “We are a bunch of rodents.”
The illegal immigration issue has been identified by the American public and many lawmakers, as well, as the most critical domestic issue in the nation.
And yet, it languishes before the American public for want of a leader strong enough to guide Congress through the minefield of vested interests that effectively are blocking a solution. Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith is desperately needed back in Washington.
“Secure the Border First” was part of the comprehensive legislation just defeated. The bill would require installation of 370 miles of border fence, about half the 700 miles of border fence that had been “mandated” the year before, but left unfunded and never built. This fence, when completed, was designed to close some 2,000 miles of open border between Mexico and the United States.
Associated Press writer Charles Babbington reports a range of comments by leaders of both Houses of Congress following the defeat of the immigration bill on Thursday, June 28.
“¢ U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a supporter of the immigration bill, discounted the U.S. border enforcement: “This idea of ‘Just do the enforcement…’ There are no votes for that.”
“¢ “The American people believe that until we’re able to secure our borders and enforce our laws, taking additional steps is really not in the best interests of the country,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after Thursday’s crucial Senate vote that derailed the bill.
“¢ There should be “a very strong sense of urgency in this country to simply carry out the law, the mandate for 854 miles (a new figure) of fence that we passed” in the 109th Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told reporters Thursday. “They’ve only built 13 miles of the fence so far.”
“¢ House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., stated, “The concern that House Republicans have had for some time now is the order in which these things are accomplished. You have securing the border, being sure that workers who are here appropriately are here with ID that is verifiable, that’s reasonably hard to duplicate.”
“¢ “Americans feel that they are losing their country … to a government that has seemed to not have the competence or the ability to carry out the things that it says it will do,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
The highly regarded Economist reports: “Both the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress misread the depth of hostility to the reform.”
“Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said that elites had simply ignored mass uneasiness with immigration. He called the debate “a war between the American people and their government.””
The Economist report said, “Mr. Bush is looking terribly lame…” (In truth, Mr. Bush’s lameness results from wearing his right shoe on his left foot too long.
The Economist report concludes: “Most important, the immigration problem remains unsolved. The border enforcement system remains overwhelmed.”
A major disconnect exists between the American people and those who were elected to provide a government to protect the health, welfare and security of its citizens.
The nation finds itself in a state of confusion.
The simple job of constructing a 2,000-mile border fence to protect U.S. citizens from an invasion of illegal aliens seems to overwhelm the once-proud nation that defeated two of the world’s most powerful enemies in World War II. In the next half century, America sent a man to the moon and returned him safely and developed the most powerful satellite communications system in the world with its accompanying Internet.
Have Americans permitted the self-interests of its elected officials and self-serving politicians to lead the nation down a blind path to self-destruction?
Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes email comments at [email protected]