BY JOHN F. ROHE
Uncle George has an addiction. It affects his family, his work and his friends. When confronted with the problem, he adopts a state of denial. Rational thought was never his strong suit. He rails against the addiction. He routinely swears it off with grand sincerity. Yet, he's always just one arm's length away from a complete cure. Sadly, the cure remains elusive. His admiring family lovingly provides cover.
One homespun remedy remains untested by Uncle George: He never quits reaching for that last draught. The addiction endures.
That's how it is with addictions. Denial. Incoherence. Repulsion. Co-dependency.
George Bush recently inspected the border through the tinted windows of an air-conditioned SUV. In a scripted speech, he condemned illegal immigration and assured that the borders would now, once and for all, be buttoned up. Well, almost. He first plans to legitimize the 13 million illegal immigrants already here. In denying a problem with the existing illegal immigration, he allows himself another robust draught.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, U.S. laborers were unable to support their families. When injured on the job, they were pennilessly returned home. There was no security for employment or retirement.
Progressive reforms remained an unrealized dream for decades. The movement relied upon courageous and hard-fought battles. Today, we easily overlook the painful transition endured in establishing a living wage, employment security, worker compensation and retirement benefits.
Landed aristocrats had good reason to oppose the Progressive movement 100 years ago. And, they still have the incentive to undermine the very progressive reforms today. The intellectual heirs of the opponents are now found among cheap-labor advocates and the sweatshop lobby. Mass immigration has become their latest tool to dismantle the living wage and to concentrate wealth in hands of the few.
President Bush follows in the footsteps of the opponents. He understands the law of supply and demand. Flood the nation with cheap labor and progressive reforms will be eroded. The consequences for a middle class reside beyond his purview.
George professes the importance of border security, but his actions tell a different story. Employer sanctions have been ignored on his watch. Illegal aliens have stolen American jobs by the millions during his presidency. The tinted glass on George's SUV obscures the view. Even now, the best way to steal an American job is to just walk in and take it.
As for a long-term solution to illegal immigration, the president plans to link willing employees anywhere with willing employers here. His invitation to the workers of the world would transform our job market into a global job fair. If his addiction to cheap labor isn't soon cured, it will become necessary to reinvent the Progressive movement.
Each of the seven amnesties since 1986 has been accompanied by assurances of border control. We have consistently made a mockery of foreigners patiently waiting their legal turn to enter. Whenever job stealers were excused, more were self-selected for the illegal opportunities.
George keeps staggering back to the keg for one last draught. He denies the addiction even while pleading for more. He rails against the crushing expense of illegal immigration for hospitals, penitentiaries, schools and welfare. And, he relies upon friends in the sweatshop lobby for support. George's addiction to cheap labor is like any other addiction. Denial. Incoherence. Repulsion. Co-dependency.
If only he could arrest the twitch for one more draught.
John F. Rohe is a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.