By Lou Dobbs
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Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Bush will sign the Secure Fence Act into law Thursday at a public ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room, reversing his earlier decision to withhold the pomp and circumstance.
House Republicans demanded the formal proceedings for public relations purposes, claiming this fence is a major accomplishment for Congress ahead of our November midterm elections.
I've said from the beginning that we can't reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can't control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports. Constructing the border fence certainly is a good beginning to our efforts to control our borders, but let's be honest about the legislation: It isn't nearly enough, and far more must be done. A congressional victory lap isn't in order for funding only half of a 700-mile fence along a nearly 2,000-mile border.
We'll find out more about how American families rate the job Congress and the president are doing with respect to illegal immigration and border security tonight, when our broadcast presents another special town-hall broadcast, "America Votes 2006: Broken Borders." Many middle-class families will finally have the chance to express their opinions about how illegal immigration is affecting their quality of life.
American middle-class families are all too often left out of the discussion of immigration reform in Washington. Instead, this country's special interest groups dominate the debate. Big business associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and organized labor unions enjoy the benefits of open borders and hope to keep the status quo: big business, to exploit the cheap labor that is provided by illegal aliens, and labor organizations, to add to their membership rolls.
Between 12 million and 20 million illegal aliens are living in the United States. But as that range suggests, no one -- not the Border Patrol, not Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security -- has any true idea how many illegal aliens are here. Why not?
I suspect one major reason is the same federal government that refuses to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws is determined not to accurately measure the number of illegal aliens in the country so as to further cover up both the cost of illegal immigration and the necessity of creating a rational public policy.
We do know that the government of Mexico encourages its poorest citizens to cross our border, to live and work in the United States. And we know that illegal aliens are sending back to Mexico more than $20 billion in remittances per year, according to the Bank of Mexico. Those remittances from Mexican citizens living in the United States are one of the largest sources of foreign income for the nation of Mexico, neck and neck with oil revenue.
No wonder that President Vicente Fox and the government of Mexico not only encourage Mexican citizens to illegally cross our borders, but also fight strenuously against American efforts to control that border.
Illegal aliens are an important part of a one trillion-dollar underground economy in America, according to Barron's. Illegal employers hire illegal aliens who pay little or no income taxes, and whose children are provided free schooling. Illegal aliens receive medical and social services, and over the past decade have displaced more than two million low-skilled American workers from their jobs.
Because the federal government refuses to enforce immigration laws, cities and towns all over the country are being forced to take on the illegal immigration crisis. Escondido, California, became the latest city with the courage to pass an ordinance prohibiting landlords from renting to illegal aliens.
Escondido joined cities as far away as Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Avon Park, Florida, which have taken similar measures in curbing the overwhelming influx of illegal aliens. Hazelton's ordinance has become the model for local regulation of the crisis: The ordinance requires certain employers doing business with the city to participate in the federal government's pilot program to verify that their employees are here legally.
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta says he's doing what his community elected him to do and says more local governments should act on behalf of their citizens: "I think there are a lot of Hazleton, Pennsylvanias, in the United States and people feel the same. They want a quality of life. They feel that people that are in this country illegally are draining the resources and draining budgets that are meant to be used to provide services for those that are here legally and paying taxes."
Increased drug trafficking constitutes another reason we must control our borders immediately. No matter how the government of Mexico resists, the Drug Enforcement Agency says as much as $25 billion in drug money crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each year. And that doesn't even count the money made from middleman and end-user transactions in the drug trade. In fact, more cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana enter the United States from Mexico than from any other point.
Control of our border with Mexico must be established if we are to be successful in resolving our illegal immigration crisis and winning the war on drugs. We do want to win, don't we?
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