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Cover Story January 7th, 2010

  Untitled Document

by lyle e daviscover

It seems to me we’ve been going about this problem with illegal immigration all wrong.

There has to be a better, more efficient way to both run and protect our country and, at the same time, extend a warm welcome and a helping hand to those qualified individuals who want to become part of our country, even if ony temporarily.

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and those presidents who preceded them, were not the first president to face a full-blown immigration crisis on the US-Mexican border.

What if we turned our policies around and worked at welcoming immigrants to America? Legal immigrants, of course. Immigrants who have been checked by our Immigration and Naturalization Service and found to be fit to permit entry into our nation. Chances are, if we diverted a lot of our ICE personnel to a task of vetting and welcoming new, qualified immigrants, we could do a whole lot more with the budget than is presently being done.

What if we had a large, nationwide organization called “Welcome to America?” Or, “Bienvenidos a America?”

And what if we helped legal immigrants enter our country? Immigrants who had gone through the formal process and waiting period? Immigrants, perhaps, that had talents our nation needs? Or labor skills we need? Or strong bodies to work in the fields and manufacturing plants?

What if?

Well, there already is an organization that is designed and equipped to do just that. We just need to make more use of it. It is called Welcome toUSA.gov and is found on the Internet at: http://www.welcometousa.gov/

This program is administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States.

We’ll come back to this program later in this commentary. How would we deal with those illegal immigrants who are already here?

President Dwight David Eisenhower handled that task quite decisively and quickly 55 years ago when the newly elected president moved into the White House. America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.

President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents – less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol.

Although there is little to no record of this operation in Ike's official papers, one piece of historic evidence indicates how he felt. In 1951, Ike wrote a letter to Sen. William Fulbright (D) of Arkansas. The senator had just proposed that a special commission be created by Congress to examine unethical conduct by government officials who accepted gifts and favors in exchange for special treatment of private individuals.

General Eisenhower, who was gearing up for his run for the presidency, said "Amen" to Senator Fulbright's proposal. He then quoted a report in The New York Times, highlighting one paragraph that said: "The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government."

Years later, the late Herbert Brownell Jr., Eisenhower's first attorney general, said in an interview that the president had a sense of urgency about illegal immigration when he took office.

America "was faced with a breakdown in law enforcement on a very large scale," Mr. Brownell said. "When I say large scale, I mean hundreds of thousands were coming in from Mexico [every year] without restraint."

Although an on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, farmers and ranchers in the Southwest had become dependent on an additional low-cost, docile, illegal labor force of up to 3 million, mostly Mexican, laborers.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, published by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Historical Association, this illegal workforce had a severe impact on the wages of ordinary working Americans. The Handbook Online reports that a study by the President's Commission on Migratory Labor in Texas in 1950 found that cotton growers in the Rio Grande Valley, where most illegal aliens in Texas worked, paid wages that were "approximately half" the farm wages paid elsewhere in the state.

Profits from illegal labor led to the kind of corruption that apparently worried Eisenhower. Joseph White, a retired 21-year veteran of the Border Patrol, says that in the early 1950s, some senior US officials overseeing immigration enforcement "had friends among the ranchers," and agents "did not dare" arrest their illegal workers.

Walt Edwards, who joined the Border Patrol in 1951, tells a similar story. He says: "When we caught illegal aliens on farms and ranches, the farmer or rancher would often call and complain [to officials in El Paso]. And depending on how politically connected they were, there would be political intervention. That is how we got into this mess we are in now."

Bill Chambers, who worked for a combined 33 years for the Border Patrol and the then-called US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), says politically powerful people are still fueling the flow of illegals. During the 1950s, however, this "Good Old Boy" system changed under Eisenhower – if only for about 10 years.

Eisenhower was a man of decisive action. He had just led the successful prosecution of a major world war in Europe. He was used to giving orders and then delegating the responsibility for enforcing those orders to people who he needed to get the job done. He saw a problem, developed a strategy to solve it, then executed the strategy.

In 1954, Ike appointed retired Gen. Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Swing, a former West Point classmate and veteran of the 101st Airborne, as the new INS commissioner.

Influential politicians, including Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D) of Texas and Sen. Pat McCarran (D) of Nevada, favored open borders, and were dead set against strong border enforcement, Brownell said. But General Swing's close connections to the president shielded him – and the Border Patrol – from meddling by powerful political and corporate interests.

One of Swing's first decisive acts was to transfer certain entrenched immigration officials out of the border area to other regions of the country where their political connections with people such as Senator Johnson would have no effect. Then on June 17, 1954, what was called "Operation Wetback" began. Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country.

By mid-July, the crackdown extended northward into Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and eastward to Texas. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had left the Lone Star State voluntarily.

Unlike today, Mexicans caught in the roundup were not simply released at the border, where they could easily reenter the US. To discourage their return, Swing arranged for buses and trains to take many aliens deep within Mexico before being set free.

Tens of thousands more were put aboard two hired ships, the Emancipation and the Mercurio. The ships ferried the aliens from Port Isabel, Texas, to Vera Cruz, Mexico, more than 500 miles south.

The sea voyage was "a rough trip, and they did not like it," says Don Coppock, who worked his way up from Border Patrolman in 1941 to eventually head the Border Patrol from 1960 to 1973.

Mr. Coppock says he "cannot understand why [President] Bush let [today's] problem get away from him as it has. I guess it was his compassionate conservatism, and trying to please [Mexican President] Vincente Fox."

There are now said to be 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the US. Of the Mexicans who live here, an estimated 85 percent are here illegally. Border Patrol vets offer tips on curbing illegal immigration

One day in 1954, Border Patrol agent Walt Edwards picked up a newspaper in Big Spring, Texas, and saw some startling news. The government was launching an all-out drive to oust illegal aliens from the United States. The orders came straight from the top. With the authority of President Eisenhower behind him, General Swing's fast-moving campaign soon secured America's borders – an accomplishment no other president has since equaled. Illegal migration had dropped 95 percent by the late 1950s.

Several retired Border Patrol agents who took part in the 1950s effort, including Mr. Edwards, say much of what Swing did could be repeated today.

"Some say we cannot send 12 million illegals now in the United States back where they came from. Of course we can!" Edwards says.

Donald Coppock, who headed the Patrol from 1960 to 1973, says that if Swing and Ike were still running immigration enforcement, "they'd be on top of this in a minute."

William Chambers, another '50s veteran, agrees. "They could do a pretty good job" sealing the border.

Edwards says: "When we start enforcing the law, these various businesses are, on their own, going to replace their [illegal] workforce with a legal workforce."

These veterans say other actions should have higher priority over the simple building of a very expensive fence:

1. End the current practice of taking captured Mexican aliens to the border and releasing them. Instead, deport them deep into Mexico, where return to the US would be more costly.

2. Crack down hard on employers who hire illegals. Without jobs, the aliens won't come.

3. End "catch and release" for non-Mexican aliens. It is common for illegal migrants not from Mexico to be set free after their arrest if they promise to appear later before a judge. Few show up.

Next, cut off benefits to illegals--all kinds, except emergency medical.

Last, but not least, is to repeal anchor baby laws.

All we lack is leadership WITH the will.

Most Americans have the will, but not the means to see that this mess is cleaned up. That's why we elect leaders that have access to the means. All they lack is the will.

The Patrol veterans say enforcement could also be aided by a legalized guest-worker program that permits Mexicans to register in their country for temporary jobs in the US. Eisenhower's team ran such a program. It permitted up to 400,000 Mexicans a year to enter the US for various agriculture jobs that lasted for 12 to 52 weeks.

Illegal alien roundups + incentives for self-deportaiton are a realistic alternative to amnesty. We already did it once. We can do it again.

Agricultural dependency

Although an on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, farmers and ranchers in the Southwest had become dependent on an additional low-cost, docile, illegal labor force of up to three million, mostly Mexican, laborers.

So let’s put these two ideas together and see if we can’t come up with a solution.

How about if we extend a warm welcome and helping hand to those legal immigrants who want to come to our country and can qualify? Let’s help them become citizens, learn our language, get a job, earn their citizenship. We will be good neighbors.

At the same time, we enforce the existing laws against illegal immigrants and deport them out of the country. All it takes is the political will and the power of the people to exercise that will. We already have one part of the equation in place:

New U.S. Web Site Helps Legal Immigrants Assimilate

The U.S. created a new website WelcometoUSA.gov to help immigrants assimilate into their new communities. (WelcometoUSA.gov)

Yes, the United States is welcoming legal immigrants with a new Web site that helps them find such things as the requirements for naturalization, the location of nearby English-language classes or a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

WelcometoUSA.gov is a comprehensive site aimed at helping newcomers learn about America’s civic values and history, settle into their new communities and take part in the life of the nation.

The Web site is one of several new initiatives to help immigrants assimilate, said Emilio Gonzalez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), during a June 12 press conference. Assimilation is one of the five pillars of then-President Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform plan, Gonzalez said.

In June 2006, the president created the Task Force on New Americans, a multiagency effort to help immigrants embrace core U.S. values such as freedom, equality before the law and tolerance; learn English; and become fully integrated into American life. Gonzalez serves as executive secretary.

America wants legal immigrants to feel “as welcome as the Founding Fathers,” he said, “and our goal is to help them.”

WelcometoUSA.gov links to all federal government resources for new immigrants as well as to some state agencies and faith-based and community groups. There are also sections on U.S. history and government, federal benefits, health care and housing, education, child care, employment and financial management.

One link focuses on volunteer opportunities for both immigrants and U.S. citizens. “It is absolutely imperative that we have a community network” that can help immigrants and refugees get the services they need, said Martha Newton, head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Volunteers are integral to making this work.”

Immigrants also are encouraged to volunteer, said Kathy Wills Wright, deputy director of USA Freedom Corps, a White House initiative to expand community service throughout America. “Volunteer service is a wonderful way for newcomers to learn about and truly feel a part of their new community,” she said.

In addition to WelcometoUSA.gov, the Task Force on New Americans reaches out to immigrants through the thousands of public libraries in the United States, said Alfonso Aguilar, head of the USCIS Office of Citizenship. More than 12,000 Civics and Citizenship Toolkits will be distributed free to public libraries, and additional copies will be available at nominal cost. Some educational materials in the kits are for newly arrived immigrants while others – such as a DVD on history and civics, and flash cards with questions and answers about the American government – are aimed at people studying for their citizenship test. It also includes the Citizen’s Almanac, which contains copies of fundamental documents of American democracy and is presented to the roughly 700,000 people each year who take the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens.

photoAguilar said that USCIS has introduced a Web-based electronic training module for volunteers and adult educators with courses on the naturalization process, U.S. government and civics education. There also will be eight regional training conferences for civics and citizenship instructors and volunteers to help them teach immigrants about their new home.

For more information, see Fact Sheet: Task Force on New Americans, Visas and Immigration and WelcometoUSA.gov

See also: Citizen’s Almanac Introduces New Americans to Nation’s Symbols.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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