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SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Congress out of step on illegal immigration

Congress and President Bush may be badly misreading the public mood over illegal immigration.

Rather than get to the root problem, members of both houses of Congress threw up their hands and blamed partisan politics. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to alienate a growing bloc of voters. So it was easier to do nothing but slap a bandage or two on the problem.

Congress knows the real problem but uses scare tactics to avoid solving it. Instead, it settles for making a show along the border and rounding up the criminal element.

Allowing undocumented workers to stay on the job is why so many continue to cross the border to the United States. The Bush administration says it would be a nightmare to round up 10 million illegal immigrants and send them back. The implication is that the process would take place over a few months and thus disrupt the economy and create mass refugee camps south of the border.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions is adamant about stopping the illegal immigration. His latest effort is an amendment that provides $1.83 billion for 370 miles of triple-layered fencing and 461 miles of vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexican border. That money goes to the Army National Guard for constructing the fences.

But fences wouldn't be needed if the government systematically, over a period of years, rigidly enforced the law against undocumented workers. Hefty fines or even jail time for employers who violate the law would reverse the flow.

The guest worker program that President Bush wants amounts to amnesty. Amnesty without rigid enforcement of existing laws would bring an another wave of illegal immigrants.

Cities find little help. Those such as Huntsville that try to handle some of the immigration problems locally run afoul of federal law.

A recent DAILY online unscientific poll said 95 percent of the readers responding want illegal immigrants arrested. That percentage just may be close to the prevailing sentiment across the South, perhaps the nation.

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