Michael: Bush Straddles the BorderTrying to stake out a middle position between the immigration plans of the two Republican Arizona Senators hosting him, Bush pretty much split the difference at his speech at DMAFB in Tucson. Bush advocates fortifying the border with yet more men and resources (though the BP budget has already been tripled since 1990) while creating a guest-worker program that would create a permanent and legally sanctioned under-class in America.
Bush complained bitterly of the costs that illegal immigrants impose on hospitals, schools and law enforcement, but he didn't propose to help border states defray those costs. And never did he mention the burden on border-state taxpayers as a result of jailing those undocumented immigrants who commit crimes while in this country. It's a problem so bad, and so expensive, that Arizona legislators even proposed the idea of building an Arizona prison in Mexico (though it was motivated as much by immigrant bashing as it was by fiscal concerns).
Arizona Governor Napolitano recently sent a bill for 118 million dollars to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for uncompensated incarceration expenses. But Bush did not promise any expansion of State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding to compensate our state for housing the over 4000 illegal immigrant prisoners in Arizona's jails and prisons. This year, in fact, the White House seeks to zero out SCAAP in the next budget. Nor did Bush promise to transfer these prisoners to federal prisons to take the unfair burden off the taxpayers of Arizona and other border states - despite having been a Governor of a border state strongly affected by this problem.
Instead, Bush purports to ease the burden on state correction systems by spending the money on preventing immigration in the first place. They are doing such a great job of interdicting all those illegal drugs, I'm sure that the feds will have immigration under control in no time. Really, it would be wonderful if the feds really could stop illegal immigration, but it hardly addresses the millions of foriegn nationals already here, some of whom might commit crimes that land them in our jails. Slowing, or even stopping illegal immigration, really just doesn't address the unequal burden that residents of border states have borne, and will continue to bear in coming years.
As is too often the case with this Administration, what was carefully not said during Bush's speech is what will cost us dearly.