On Jan. 27, the Copley News Service reported that shortly after President Bush announced his plans to amnesty millions of illegal aliens in the U.S., more than half of the Mexicans trying to sneak into the U.S. through San Ysidro (search) told authorities they were doing so to position themselves for the amnesty.
As one member of the U.S. Border Patrol (search) told me, “They believe that they are only responding to an invitation.”
The percentage suggested by Copley probably does not come close to the actual number of people who are running for the American border as word of Bush’s immigration plan (search) spreads through Mexico -- and indeed throughout the world. Mexico, it seems, is now regarded the world over as the doorway to the United States.
In the last several weeks, a staggering 90 percent of all illegal aliens intercepted in one sector in southern Texas claim they’ve come for the amnesty.
Officers of the Border Patrol have now been directed to ask a set of questions of the illegal aliens they apprehend running across the border. One of those questions is: Is the person attempting to illegally enter the U.S. in response to the Bush amnesty proposal? To make arrests, Border Patrol officers often must dodge rocks being thrown at them by aliens as they cross. They then are told by all but 10 percent of the illegals they apprehend that it is the Bush amnesty (search) they've come for.
“The agents were soon told to stop collecting this information, presumably because it appeared as if the proposal was acting as a lure,” says my source within the Border Patrol.
Word of the 2000-mile wide open door between Mexico and the U.S. has spread far beyond Mexico. It is not just Mexicans who are flooding into our border states anymore. Along with the Nicaraguans, Brazilians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, and Chileans, agents of the Border Patrol now encounter Chinese, Pakistanis, and Indians. Nationals of countries other than Mexico are known, in Border Patrol parlance, as “OTMs.” (search) Because they cannot easily be returned to their home country (whereas a Mexican national might be driven right back across the border), OTMs are permitted to enter the U.S. and given a Notice to Appear, which is a piece of paper demanding their appearance before an Immigration Judge.
“I’m an OTM and I want my NTA,” some have been known to declare to the Border Patrol. Rules require that most be given their NTA, upon which the OTM departs forever for some unknown location in America.
“A lot of OTMs want to be caught so they can get their "papers," which makes them legal enough to get past our checkpoint without having to ride in the back of an 18-wheeler or crammed into the trunk of a car,” says one agent.
This is what the Bush amnesty proposal has caused to happen at our border with Mexico. Foreign nationals walk nearly unimpeded into our country -- fully aware of ways in which our immigration laws can be used to their advantage and even the nomenclature of immigration law enforcement-- and demand that our federal officers take a certain action that gives them the greatest likelihood of disappearing within the U.S.
Like a loss-making business that is kept alive by its corporate parent so it can be used as a tax write-off, the Border Patrol remains deliberately undermanned and hogtied while the administration tries to keep up the appearance that the borders of the United States actually mean something.
At a Democratic rally in Tennessee, Al Gore dumbfounded observers when, in criticizing President Bush's invasion of Iraq, he baroquely claimed the president had "betrayed his country." Right now, thousands of registered Republicans -- particularly those in border states -- are experiencing a tangible sense of betrayal. Some things are sacrosanct to the modern Republican, and along with such values as a strong national defense and limited government, one is a secure national border. That disappeared with President Bush’s amnesty proposal, just as if he had announced that the GOP is no longer interested in reducing taxes.
I doubt that most principled Republicans will forget it.
Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, to be published in October.