Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Balance Immigration Needs

November 04, 2001

The Bush administration seems to understand the two no-brainers of United States immigration policy in these uncertain early moments of the 21st Century. 1) The nation must do a far better job of keeping out murderous fanatics. 2) The hemisphere's interlocked economies still depend on Mexicans and Canadians being able to move across the U.S. border in an orderly and relatively open manner.

Back in the innocent first days of September, President Bush was still looking at ways to loosen the nation's immigration laws and broaden the country's historic generosity toward prospective immigrants by creating a guest-worker program with Mexico. Then the U.S. learned the hard way that it had a virtual open-door policy for terrorists; that sociopaths bent on mayhem could waltz into the country from anywhere on the globe using perfectly valid visas.

At the first meeting of his new Homeland Security Council last week, President Bush announced the creation of a task force to review U.S. immigration laws and policies and recommend changes in laws and procedures. He deserves congratulations for understanding that contempt for those who come here to destroy need not preclude generosity toward those who come here to create lives for themselves by helping to build this nation.

Bush is right to ask the task force to target all immigration loopholes, starting with the lax way U.S. consulates abroad issue tourist, student and business visas. He is right to demand that immigration officials do a better job of tracking foreigners who enter the country legally by tightening identification requirements and fingerprinting every visitor. And he is right to ask Canada and Mexico to share more customs and immigration information so that officials have a better chance of nabbing terrorists as they try to slip across borders, although making this happen will require delicate negotiations with these neighbors, who naturally are reluctant to cede control of their borders to the immigration needs of the United States.

Finally, Bush is also right to postpone, rather than scrap, guest-worker negotiations with Mexico.

It's time for an immigration policy driven by common sense. As one Justice Department official recently told The Times: "We don't have to let people [into the United States] who think it is their duty to kill Americans." Nor should we exclude those who can help.

Congress would be well advised to keep Bush's tough, generous tone as it crafts new immigration rules. Calibrating the right balance will be as tricky as finding Osama bin Laden, but it is no less critical a goal.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|