• This column contains all three parts of Thomas Sowell's essay on immigration.
The immigration bill before Congress has some of the most serious consequences for the future of this country. Yet it is not being discussed seriously by most politicians or most of the media. Instead, it is being discussed in a series of glib talking points that insult our intelligence.
Some of the most momentous consequences — a major increase in the number of immigrants admitted legally — are not even being discussed at all by those who wrote the Senate bill, though Senator Jeff Sessions has uncovered those provisions in the bill and brought them out into the light of day.
How many times have we heard that illegal aliens are taking "jobs that Americans won't do"? Just what specifically are those jobs?
Even in occupations where illegals are concentrated, such as agriculture, cleaning, construction, and food preparation, the great majority of the work is still being done by people who are not illegal aliens.
The highest concentration of illegals is in agriculture, where they are 24 percent of the people employed. That means three-quarters of the people are not illegal aliens. But when will the glib phrase-mongers stop telling us that the illegals are simply taking "jobs that Americans won't do"?
Another insult to our intelligence is that amnesty is not amnesty if you call it something else. The fact that illegals will have to fulfill certain requirements to become American citizens is supposed to mean that this is not amnesty.
But let's do what the spinmeisters hope we will never do — stop and think. Amnesty is overlooking ("forgetting," as in amnesia) the violation of the law committed by those who have crossed our borders illegally.
The fact that there are requirements for getting American citizenship is a separate issue entirely. Illegal aliens who do not choose to seek American citizenship are under no more jeopardy than before. They have de facto amnesty.
Yet another insult to our intelligence is saying that, since we cannot find and deport 12 million people, the only choice left is to find some way to make them legal.
There is probably no category of law-breakers — from counterfeiters to burglars or from jay-walkers to murderers — who can all be found and arrested. But no one suggests that we must therefore make what they have done legal.
Such an argument would suggest that there is nothing in between 100 percent effective law enforcement and zero percent effective law enforcement.
The reverse twist on this argument is that suddenly taking 12 million people out of the labor force would disrupt the economy. No one has ever said — or probably even dreamed — that we could suddenly find all 12 million illegal immigrants at once and send them all home immediately. This is another straw man argument.
The real question is what we do with whatever illegal aliens we do find. Right now, there are various communities around the country where local officials have a policy of forbidding the police from reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
Why are people who are so gung ho for punishing employers so utterly silent about needing to punish government officials who openly and deliberately violate federal laws?
Employers, after all, are not in the business of law enforcement.
If some guy who runs a hardware store or a dry cleaning business hires someone who shows some forged documents, why should the employer be fined for not being able to tell the difference, when government officials who can tell the difference are not doing anything — or are even actively obstructing federal laws?
Putting unarmed national guardsmen on the border is another cosmetic move, a placebo instead of real medicine. The excuse is that it is not possible to train more than 1,500 border patrol agents a year. Meanwhile, we have trained well over 200,000 Iraqi security forces while guerilla warfare raged around them.
You can put a million people on the border and it will mean nothing if those who are caught are simply turned loose and sent back to try again tomorrow — or perhaps later the same day.
• Of all the insults to our intelligence in the current discussions of immigration legislation, the biggest insult is the claim that border control legislation and legislation on the illegal immigrants already in the country must go together.
Why? What will happen if they are done separately? And who will be worse off?
The claim that the two pieces of legislation must be passed at the same time has been repeated endlessly. But endless repetition is not a coherent argument.
At the heart of this issue is the question whether Congress and the Bush administration are serious about controlling the borders and about letting the number and kind of immigrants allowed into this country be decided in the United States, not in Mexico.
Whatever number and kind of immigrants the United States wants to admit into this country, that decision means nothing unless that limit is enforced at the borders. Nor is there any way to know in advance how effective any particular method of border control will turn out to be in practice.
The only way to know whether fences, national guardsmen or anything else will work is to wait and see before issuing blanket amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, virtually guaranteeing that millions more will follow, as has happened in the past.
A Congressional package deal is not about border control. It is about trying to get the Hispanic vote without losing the votes of other Americans. It is about allowing politicians to vote on both sides of this issue to cover themselves politically.
Once such legislation passes, the guarantee to illegals is immediate and its consequences permanent for them and for successive generations of their offspring. But what actually happens at the border is left up in the air.
It may be significant that, with all the talk about the preconditions to be set for illegal immigrants to get American citizenship, nothing has been said about one of the easiest ways of getting American citizenship, without having to learn English or do anything else.
Pregnant women from Mexico simply walk across the border and have their babies in American hospitals. This creates an instant American citizen who cannot be deported and whose family members would be hard to deport.
Those who claim to want to "control the borders" with this package-deal legislation don't even talk about this, much less try to do anything about it.
Let's return to the question of what would happen if border control legislation were to be voted on separately from amnesty legislation, instead of in the current package deal.
First of all, we would find out who is serious about border control, especially if the question of amnesty (by whatever name) is postponed for some definite period of time, in order to first see what happens at the border before taking that irrevocable step.
Who would lose anything by this separate consideration of the two pieces of legislation? The country would not lose anything. Neither would the illegal aliens already in the country.
The biggest losers would be politicians. They could no longer be on both sides of the issue by voting for a package deal but would have to stand up and be counted on border control.
Some say that the Democrats would filibuster a bill that offered border control separately. Fine. Let them!
Let them show their true colors in an election year and then go face the voters in the fall.
Of course, those Republicans who are either weak-kneed or who share the Democrats' views would also lose the political cover of being able to vote on both sides of the immigration issue.
But the country would be better off not to commit itself to guaranteeing the permanence of millions of illegal aliens and all their descendants thereafter without getting anything more than pious hopes about controlling the border.
As for not being able to pass immigration legislation separately, that claim has already been refuted by those who made it. The Senate has just passed a bill allowing illegal aliens to collect Social Security, even if they were hired with forged or stolen Social Security cards.
Amnesty gives illegal immigrants a better deal than Americans
Some people are worried that amnesty will give illegal aliens the same rights that American citizens have. In reality, it will give the illegals more rights than the average American citizen.
Since most of the illegals are Mexican, that makes them a minority. Under affirmative action, combined with amnesty, they would have preferences in jobs and other benefits.
Those who set up their own businesses would be entitled to preferences in getting government contracts. Their children would be able to get into college ahead of the children of American citizens with better academic qualifications.
Illegals who graduate from a high school in California can already attend the University of California, paying lower tuition that an American citizen from neighboring Oregon.
Under the supposedly "tough" immigration bill in the U.S. Senate, illegals don't have to pay all the back taxes they owe. An American citizen gets no such break from the government and can end up in federal prison, like Al Capone.
If an American citizen gets stopped by the police for a traffic violation and the cops discover that he is wanted for some other violation of the law, they can arrest him for whatever else he has done.
But if an illegal alien gets stopped for going through a red light and the police discovers that he is in the country illegally, in many communities the cop is forbidden to arrest him for that — or even to report him to the feds.
If an American citizen forges a Social Security card in order to get a job, he can be arrested. Under a provision recently passed by the Senate, illegal aliens who forged Social Security cards not only get a pass, they get to collect Social Security benefits.
The great majority of Senators who voted for that provision were Democrats, and they prevailed because they were joined by a small minority of Republicans, led by — surprise! — Senator John McCain. After similar defections on judges and free speech, Senator McCain may give opportunism a bad name.
What the immigration bill in the Senate has become is just another attempt to pander to another special interest, in disregard of how that affects the country as a whole.
Much is made of the fact that there are supposedly 12 million illegals in the country already. The last time illegal aliens were given amnesty, back in 1986, that led to even more illegal aliens coming in afterwards.
Do we want 20 million or 30 million more illegal aliens in the future? Do we want to change the very composition of the American population, and with it the values of the country?
There was a time when immigrants came here to become Americans. But there are powerful pressure groups in this country, extending far beyond the immigrant community, doing their best to keep foreigners foreign and force Americans to accommodate their foreign language and culture in the name of "multiculturalism."
We have seen what havoc such notions and practices have created after mass immigration under "guest worker" programs in Europe, especially after the Muslim riots in France. Do we want that in the United States?
Most of the first generation of immigrants may want nothing more than a chance to work and will be happy to be here instead of in Mexico. But second generations born in this country compare their situation not with the situation in Mexico but with what other Americans around them have.
There are plenty of people, both inside and outside the immigrant community, who will fan their sense of grievance and exploit their resentments. This is not peculiar to people from Mexico. Europe has already experienced this.
Both the facts of the past and the dangers of the future are being ignored in the rush to give immediate benefits to illegal aliens, washed down with much talk about border control but no requirement that the border actually be controlled before these benefits go into effect.
The political strategy of this package deal legislation is to give immediate and irrevocable special benefits to some and make pious promises about the future to get all this past the others.