This election year, the president will campaign on a promise to amnesty millions of illegal aliens and institute a guest worker program, while leading Democrats insist that our country should simply grant citizenship to every illegal alien here.

Voters who seek stronger enforcement of our immigration laws (some 85 percent of Americans, according to a recent poll) have nowhere to go.


On the state level, there are individuals running for Congress who understand what voters want and have made better enforcement of our immigration laws the centerpiece of their campaigns.  Houston police officer John Nickell (search), a Republican, is running for Representative of Texas’ Congressional District 2. The district encompasses the city of Houston, and Nickell, being a police officer, is intimately familiar with some of the problems that come from nearly unchecked illegal immigration along our southern border. The city of Houston, as it happens, has a sanctuary policy (search) that prevents Houston employees from working with federal immigration authorities to apprehend and remove illegal aliens.

Houston has seen more than its share of immigration-related crime (search). On Jan. 2, 2003, a 6-year old boy named Jose Soto was riding his bike near his parents’ apartment in northwest Houston when he was run over by a garbage truck. People who saw it happen watched as the truck’s driver, Jose Ines Morales, stopped the truck, pulled the child from underneath it, and then drove away. With the boy in critical condition, the driver, apparently taking advantage of his Mexican nationality, fled across the border into Mexico and has not been found since. As a matter of policy, Mexico will not extradite wanted criminals to the U.S.

In a March 2003 episode that demonstrates just how sanctuary policies can end lives, Walter Alexander Sorto, a 25-year-old Salvadorian national and illegal alien, abducted, raped and murdered two Houston women. Sorto had repeatedly been picked up by Houston police for moving violations and driving without insurance, but the police were prevented by Houston’s sanctuary policy from reporting Sorto to federal immigration authorities. What’s more, Sorto had already been convicted of robbery and sentenced to 10 years probation when the murders took place. Had the state done its job, Sorto’s conviction would have been reported to federal immigration authorities and Sorto would have been removed.

Officer Nickell had seen enough by the time he decided to run for Congress. In March 2003, he testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the topic of sanctuary policies, and went on the record against his employer’s own sanctuary policy for the city Houston. Before the committee, Nickell pointed out the hypocrisy of a municipality working closely with federal agencies such as the DEA and FBI on drug operations, but selecting immigration authorities for non-cooperation.

Of Houston, he said, “we refuse to even consider working with the INS for politically expedient and correct reasons.”

"... John Nickell just has the courage to express publicly what the rank-and-file police officer thinks privately," said Craig Nelson, director of Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement. "People in law enforcement know better than anyone the disastrous consequences of ignoring the law, and, in some cases, as in Houston's city policy, of actively thwarting the law.”

Robert Vasquez, commissioner of Canyon County, Idaho, knows the burdens placed on local government and how illegal immigrant advocacy groups know to go straight to a state’s congressional delegation if they want results. “But if I want to meet with my state’s senators or congressmen to discuss, for example, the local costs of medical care for illegal aliens, they are frequently unavailable, and their staff members speak to me as if they are the elected official.”

The tide may slowly be turning. A member of Texas’ current congressional delegation, John Culberson of the state’s 7th District, has come down against President Bush’s amnesty plan.

As the president campaigns on what is arguably a plan to end the distinction between the U.S. and its southern neighbor, the rift between open-borders Republicans and those that support enforcement of our immigration laws widens. Voters who look carefully at local and congressional candidates are seeing the possibility that this new generation of Republicans understand that borders can save lives and are willing to run against the policies of a Republican president.

“Republicans must begin to develop leadership at the congressional level that cares more about protecting Americans than staying in office as long as it can,” said Nickell.

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.

Respond to the Writer