Our--I'll put the plug in now--our website is https://cis.org/. All of our publications are there, and we'll have a transcript of this panel discussion up there, eventually, as well.
Usually, in national immigration policy discussions, or any immigration policy discussion . . . takes place at the national level. Most of the stuff the Center publishes addresses that, and that's appropriate because immigration is a federal issue. And the stuff in the news, deals with the national level of immigration matters, for the most part: The President's call for an amnesty, the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty Bill, the Kyl-Cornyn Bill on immigration.
But what happens when the federal government abdicates its responsibilities on immigration? Congress banned the employment of illegal aliens almost twenty years ago, but enforcement of it was half-hearted to begin with and it's essentially stopped altogether, for the past five or six years. The Treasury Department has given the green light to banks to give illegal aliens bank accounts. Even at the border--which is often what people are comfortable talking about, border enforcement--but even there it's deficient, as the frequent news stories about the catch-and-release policy the Border Patrol has for non-Mexican illegals, where they are given a letter telling them to come back for a court date, and nobody ever does.
So what happens, when this happens -- when the federal government is uncomfortable or sometimes outright refuses to enforce the immigration law and you end up with perhaps 11 million illegal aliens in the United States, living all over the country? The fact is state and local governments have to respond one way or another. Whatever they do is a kind of response; whatever decisions they make is a kind of immigration policy that the state and local governments are adopting because if they do nothing, that's a policy decision. If, for instance, just to talk about the tuition issue, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, if you permit in-state tuition, that's an immigration policy encouraging, at least symbolically, illegal immigration. If you prohibit in-state tuition for illegal aliens, that itself is an immigration policy. So, in a sense, the point is state and local governments are forced to adopt some kind of, develop some kind of, immigration policy, simply because the federal government has been so completely ineffective in doing its job.
The panel today is . . . what we want to do is explore some of these issues, which two state legislators who deal with this on the ground, not in the kind of airy and theoretical way that the policy-wonks do here in Washington, but actually addressing the real world of legislation, talk about some of their thoughts and their experiences on this issue.
Just as a side note, both of the state legislators whom I'll introduce are Republicans, but this isn't even really a partisan issue, as immigration, generally speaking, is not. It splits both parties, and just as an example of that, one of our board members is a former Democrat member of the Virginia House of Delegates, George Grayson, who probably Delegate Black didn't get along with at all on most issues, but on immigration there's common ground between people on opposite sides as opposed to some of the other issues like taxes or abortion or gun control or whatever, which are much more clearly partisan issues. This doesn't really work that way.
Our first speaker will be Richard Black. He is a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates from Loudon County the Sterling area, and has been there since 1998. A Marine Corps veteran who has introduced an interesting piece of legislation thats not one of the more conventional issues trying to deny benefits to illegal aliens, but one that tries to deal with the issue of public contracts. Maybe he'll talk about it or maybe not, but denying government contracts or sub-contracts to people who employ illegal aliens is an important issue that I've actually tried to push for awhile.
Our other speaker is Herb McMillan, [who] represents, since 2003, Anne Arundel County, Annapolis--I assume the Annapolis area--in the Maryland General Assembly. A Navy veteran, who has been quite active on this issue especially on the driver's license issue, in other words, trying to make sure that only legal residents--people lawfully in the United States--are able to get driver's licenses.
Delegate Black will speak first, then Delegate McMillan, and then we'll take some Q & A afterwards.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Thank you very much. I'm Delegate Dick Black. I represent a district in Virginia with lots of immigrants. They've supported me, and I've supported them. But they're here legally, and most of them are citizens of the United States. Illegal immigrants are a separate matter, and that is our concern today.
America's southern borders have collapsed. The Washington Times said that in April 2004, the Border Patrol caught 64,000 people illegally penetrating one 23-mile stretch of the Arizona border that was later sealed off by Minutemen volunteers. Putting that in perspective, if you took that over a two-month period, the number apprehended on that one small stretch equaled the entire troop strength of the military forces now deployed in Iraq. And these are just the ones that we catch. The locals say that most are never caught at all.
This tidal wave is encouraged by the Mexican Government, which gives aliens tips on evading capture and helps them establish false identities with the Matricula Consular [card]. By funneling its citizens north, Mexico relieves pressure to reform its own government, where corruption and poverty are endemic. Buckling to pressure for cheap labor, our own federal government encourages illegal entry by hinting at amnesty and by refusing to enforce border security.
Federal immigration courts are simply farcical. National Public Radio aired a report on July 11 about a federal court in Arlington, Texas, where only 2 percent of the defendants showed up at all. We go through the motions; we simply do not enforce the laws.
I'll tell you the Americans appreciate immigrants. We're probably the most welcoming nation on the face of the earth when it comes to people from foreign nations. Immigrants are hard workers. We appreciate their contributions, but up to a point. The problem with an inexhaustible supply of cheap labor is that it undermines health benefits, wages, pensions, and workplace security that took American workers generations to secure. In some areas it's undermining order in once serene neighborhoods.
Frankly, American workers are more expensive than aliens. They want decent wages and better conditions for their families. Their pay must cover income and social security taxes. The require unemployment insurance. They want medical and pension benefits. Employers must comply with state and federal labor laws when they hire native-born Americans.
But many illegals function in an underground cash economy. Some are hired at day labor sites like the one near me in Herndon. They are hired based on their personal appearance. The Americans with Disabilities Act simply does not apply in the world of day labor, since only the strong and healthy are hired. Some labor laws are ignored by unscrupulous employers who know that illegals can't complain. Do they pay taxes? Some do, but others probably do not.
So what's the impact on state and federal government? First, it's important to understand that the federal government holds almost all the cards. We can't enforce immigration laws at the state level, and the federal government refuses to do so.
Now the town of Herndon in Northern Virginia is a perfect example of the spreading disorder that's arising from illegal immigration. Herndon officials are struggling with day laborers who began several years ago to congregate at a local 7-Eleven. These men are desperate for work. They hang out there, they ask if you want--do you want some help? If they're not hired by around noon, they're unlikely to get work at all. News reports indicate that some resort to beer drinking and to catcalling that intimidates local women. Now I will tell you that many of the women in that area are afraid to go out, they're afraid to let their kids out.
So they're proposed a new site in a residential area. The 7-Eleven is in a business area, the businesses don't like this, so they are saying well let's move this hiring center into a residential neighborhood. But there, just on the fact that this is coming about, property values are dropping and owners are being panicked into selling their homes.
The angry citizens are demanding a solution. So what do they do? Should the Herndon Town Council let aliens continue loitering around, hoping for work, or should it build a hiring hall for people who are breaking the immigration laws? The Council has been threatened with a lawsuit for aiding and abetting violations of federal immigration law if they do build the hiring hall. The federal government has simply left the town of Herndon with a dilemma that is impossible to solve in a wholly satisfactory fashion.
It's not that there isn't work to do. The problem is that communities are being hit with a tidal wave of illegal aliens. With millions of non-citizens arriving in communities each year, the medical, social, criminal, educational, and work-placement systems are overstretched. America's counties, cities, and towns can only incorporate new people so rapidly.
I want to talk about driver's licenses because this was a particular issue in Virginia. When the hijackers crashed into the Twin Towers in 2001, seven of the nineteen terrorists used illegally obtained Virginia drivers licenses to board the planes. Responding to this, Virginia formed a legislative subcommittee, the Transportation Committee, to study methods to tighten our system. We eventually implemented rules requiring applicants to prove their legal presence in this country before we issue driver's licenses.
But while we examined this problem, we discovered just how difficult it is to distinguish Americans for non-Americans. Increasingly, we lack a common language or a common heritage. It became clear to many of us that the nation desperately needs some breathing space to assimilate those moving here during this era of broken-borders immigration.
In 2003, the Virginia House and Senate passed HB 2339. The bill would have denied illegal immigrants preferential in-state tuition at state universities. The law would put illegals on the same plane as Americans who are non-residents, but the Governor vetoed even this gentle restriction on immigration violators. A lot of Americans felt like they had become bill payers for the world.
The concern over illegal immigration did continue to grow, and in 2005, Virginia lawmakers finally enacted Senate Bill 1143 to restrict illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid and other public health and welfare benefits. Now we did exempt emergency medical care. The legislation took the same approach that we used on drivers licenses by requiring people to demonstrate legal presence before they got assistance. Now the bill became law and it will help somewhat, but restricting benefits is somewhat akin to putting a Band-Aid on an amputation. Hard as we try, states cannot stem the tide of illegal immigration simply by limiting benefits going to foreigners. Americans are compassionate people and it's just difficult to ignore people in need, whatever their status. But the more we help, the more millions flood across our borders.
The bottom line is this: The federal government has totally and utterly failed to protect our country and its citizens; we must regain control of our borders, and do so quickly.
There is a cultural divide. Constituents tell me that investors in my community are renting out single-family homes to three and four unrelated immigrants families. If the families claim that they're related, nobody can prove otherwise.
And I want you to understand that this is not a liberal or a conservative, Democrat or Republican, issue. In 2001, then-senator Leslie Byrne said this to The Washington Post: People live in a great neighborhood, and the next day, fourteen unrelated people move in, with inadequate bathroom facilities. That's from a very liberal Democrat, and I'm a conservative Republican, but she and I are seeing the same problem. The problem is massive and it's something that affects everyone regardless of party or ideology.
Language barriers and sheer volume make it difficult for communities to cope with regulatory violations. Communities are becoming too transient and cultural barriers too complex to deal with unless, and until, the influx dissipates.
We've got educational challenges also. The Federal Courts require states to educate the children of illegal aliens. And since illegal aliens don't begin to pay the costs they impose on our schools, property taxes go up in order to pay the freight. Americans want every child educated, but the way illegals are pouring across, it's extremely difficult to keep up. Now, including debt service, Loudoun Country pays about $15,000 per year to educate a child. One child. So a single illegal family with three children costs the taxpayers $45,000 a year. And that family, just because of their particular status, is unlikely to contribute much to the property tax base--property taxes are what primarily funds our schools.
Then we have crime problems. A year back, Newsweek called MS-13 the most violent gang in American history. MS-13 deals in drugs and immigrant trafficking. An MS-13 gang member arrested in Texas was implicated in a bus bombing in Honduras that killed 28 people. MS-13 is endemic in Virginia, where there have been murders and amputation attacks using machetes. For now, most of the violence is aimed at other Hispanic immigrants and some other Hispanic gang members. That makes it easier for some officials to ignore the problem. But it's unrealistic to expect the violence to remain self-contained, and in any event, human compassion demands that we act when MS-13 brutalizes people, regardless of their immigration status.
The Justice Department is now estimating over 750,000 gang members active across the United States. Many of these are illegal aliens. Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, recently said, Street gangs in America have grown and expanded their influence to an alarming level, marked by increased violence and criminal activity. And I'll tell you this, from the Northern Virginia experience, I agree with him completely.
This year, customs and immigration officials arrested over 1,000 gang members for deportation. Whether they'll actually be deported is an open question. If they are deported, it's often just a matter of time before the re-emerge on the streets of America. They may be gangsters, but they're not dummies. Anyone can see that the U.S. Government has absolutely no intentions of controlling our borders. Deported criminals quickly return with impunity. Ultimately, violent gangs like MS 13 pose a looming threat to national security. They represent a large and growing army of lawless aliens who kill to get their way.
The future is uncertain. While the economy remains strong, companies get cheap labor and life goes on. But what happens if there is a spike in the interest rates that affects the construction craze? What happens if it puts tens of thousands of illegal construction workers out of work? They'd be left without incomes, without housing, and they don't have the family networks to fall back on.
Something else that we need to think about -- we've just been wrestling with Social Security -- I think the biggest question of all is left unanswered. What happens to our Social Security system when millions of illegal immigrants who have worked for many years in this country step up and ask benefits when there's no evidence whatsoever that they paid into the system? We can't leave them penniless on the street like their own countries would. So does this force us to dilute benefits that are owed to Americans workers who dutifully paid into the system for over forty years? I think we're going to face a dilemma that really transcends anything that has been present in the national debate up to this point.
I want to show you just how dramatic this issue has become. This is snowballing at a phenomenal rate. I had Eric clip out just the clippings from yesterday's local newspapers, just from the Times and the Post. And you can see: Laborer's Shelter Splits Herndon, Customs Jails a Thousand Suspected Gang Members, Anti-Gang Initiative Leads to 542 arrests, Invasion on a Reservation: talking about an Indian reservation where the flood of illegals has just become so unmanageable that the Indians are losing control of their tribal lands, An Unspeakable Crime,: about a 16-year-old girl who was suspected to have been grabbed by a Salvadorean immigrant, and there's a very terrible murder case there. The news is cascading on this, it's just enormous, and we have got to get a grip on this.
There is a crisis in America. We face staggering problems from illegal immigration. And it is in the best interests of both Americans and the illegal immigrants who have arrived here that we stem the tide right now and we restore order to the chaotic immigration situation. There is nothing that the states can do that will work as long as the President, the Congress, and the federal courts ignore their constitutional duty to seal our borders. Thank you.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Delegate Black. And now, from Maryland, Delegate Herb McMillan.
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: Thank you. I just want to . . . so much of what Delegate Black has said rings true for us in Maryland as well. Two things before I want to . . . before I get into some detail. With respect to this immigration issue: You frequently hear people say that those of us who are concerned about illegal immigration are against immigrants or we're opposed to immigrants. And you'll see this spin on language. We're opposed to illegal immigration, and we can't underscore that point enough. As Delegate Black has said, there is a place, there has been a place in our country throughout history for legal immigrants. And it's important to us to see that legal immigration is maintained and perhaps expanded.
One thing I always like to point out to people is that when you don't do anything about illegal immigration, you're essentially allowing people to cut in line ahead of those who've waited their turn, who've paid their dues, and played by the rules. So as I see it, illegal immigration is unfair to those who want to immigrate to our country and show respect for our laws.
The second thing has to do with political affiliation. From my standpoint, the Democrats have failed on this issue no more than Republicans. We have a Republican Congress, we have a Republican President, and there has been nothing done on this issue, literally, for six years. The REAL-ID act is a step toward addressing some concerns, but it leaves a lot of questions as well. And, I'll come back to that in a moment, but, from my standpoint, this is an issue that's bipartisan and, if anything, both parties share equal responsibility for failing to act on this issue.
I first became interested . . . when I was elected to the Maryland Legislature I had served one term on the City Council of Annapolis, I come into the Legislature, my roots are very much in local government where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. My first year there I was very concerned about fiscal issues, we had a billion dollar deficit. One of the first bills that I saw come sailing across my desk was a bill--when we were forecasting a deficit of one billion dollars in my state--that would give illegal immigrants in-state tuition at Maryland University in a year in which in-state tuition and out-of-state tuitions were increasing by double digits for citizens. I was shocked that at a time when we had a deficit like this we could be thinking of extending a benefit, reserved traditionally for state taxpayers, to people who are not even in our country legally. And I, I fought very hard to defeat that bill. It came back the next year--very cleverly disguised--illegal immigrants weren't even mentioned in it the next year. But the impact of the bill would have been the same.
I had an interesting experience with it. I introduced an amendment to the bill called the No-Marylander-Left-Behind amendment. [Laughter]. It said that no illegal immigrants would be admitted to the University of Maryland system as long as a qualified Maryland citizen was denied admission. The amendment failed [laughter], which tells you a lot about the state that I live in, but the bill never made it through our Senate. But I guess, I learned from the experience that there is a very strong pro-illegal, emphasis on illegal, immigration lobby in our state.
My very first year in the legislature there was also an attempt to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. One other aspect of my background that has some bearing on this is that I am a pilot with American Airlines. And Delegate Black talked about Virginia's experience after the 9/11 hijackings. Well, Chick Burlingame was the captain on flight 77, the flight that was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon, and I flew with Chick many times. As a pilot I knew him, personally, and we were friends. And I found it dumbfounding that in the same year that Virginia was acting to strengthen legal presence requirements on their driver's licenses as a result of what happened on September 11th, my state had people that wanted to reduce our requirements to make it easier for an illegal immigrant and, quite bluntly, to make it easier for a terrorist to get an identity document and use it against the United States, against our people. I was amazed.
You know, people criticize me for calling illegal immigrants illegal aliens. They said that they should be called undocumented immigrants. And I said okay, well then I'll use your term. You want me to give an identity document to someone who, by your own definition, is undocumented. Help me understand that.
Because I'll tell you, the citizens of our states don't understand it. In Montgomery County, the majority leader of the Maryland Legislature, Kumar Barve, he sent a survey out to 20,000 of his constituents. And he asked them if they thought that we should be giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. More than half of the people in the most liberal district in the state of Maryland said no.
So if you don't think that this cuts across party lines and even ideological lines, you're wrong. And the reason is, is because none of this passes the common sense test. Does it make sense to give an identity document to someone who, by definition, is undocumented? No. Does it make sense to give something that will make it easier for a person who is here in the United States illegally, a person who has cut in front of other immigrants, does it make sense to encourage that behavior by rewarding it with a privilege--because a driver's license is a privilege, in-state tuition is a privilege-- does it make sense to reward that behavior with privileges? No, it doesn't. And again, is it fair to allow someone who comes here illegally to cut ahead of people who follow our laws, respect our laws, and come here legally? No, it doesn't. None of these things, amazingly, pass the common sense test. And yet, you'll see Republicans and Democrats in Congress alike do nothing about it.
I heard an interesting observation the other day. Republicans don't do anything about illegal immigration because they like cheap labor and Democrats don't because they see them as possible votes. And maybe that explains some of the inaction on this issue.
But to come back to, I want to touch on briefly . . . I've introduced legislation into the Maryland Legislature over the last two years that would require legal presence in order to get a driver's license. And it actually had some exemptions for individuals who came here and were in the processing of renewing their visas and so forth. But it hasn't passed. I haven't even been able to get it out of committee. We took it to the floor one year, and it was defeated. We went around the committee system and it was defeated.
And now, of course, REAL-ID has passed. Certainly not a perfect law either. I'm concerned because I think there are loopholes in REAL-ID that would allow people to get certificates--driving certificates as opposed to driver's licenses. REAL-ID very well may help to address some of the security concerns that I have, but let's go back to the commonsense concerns. Everyone always talks about how REAL-ID is going to be part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the security of our borders and to deal with the problems of illegal immigration. But if you're still going to allow states to give a driver's certificate to an individual who comes here illegally, what have you done? You're not discouraging the bad behavior, you're encouraging it. You're saying, okay, you're here illegally, but we're going to let you drive to your job, that you have illegally, which, by the way, is possibly cutting an American citizen out of a job with better wages, I'll come back to that in a moment. So I think that REAL-ID has several loopholes in it, just as the 1996 Immigration Act does.
The 1996 Immigration Act says that you can't give a benefit to a non-American that you don't give to an American. And yet, we have several states that allow illegal immigrants, who are citizens of another country, by definition, to get in-state tuition, even though a citizen from a different state has to pay out-of-state tuition. Think about how crazy that is. Imagine a map of the United States, you live in Maryland. If you live anywhere else in the United States but Maryland you got to pay out-of-state tuition, unless of course you live in any other country in the world and you're there illegally. Does that make sense? No. And I think most people know that.
The labor issues, I think, are huge. I'm one of the rarest of all kinds of Republicans, I'm a union member. But I'm in good company, so was Ronald Reagan. I look at these labor issues and I'll hear the President say things, well, we need a guest labor program . . .we need a guest labor program because we want to have willing workers for the jobs that our employers need to fill. Well, you know what? We used to outsource jobs. Companies used to go outside the United States so that they could make things more cheaply and save a dollar. They don't have to do that now, now they can just get illegal immigrants to do the work for them without very much fear of reprisal, because there has been very precious little enforcement on this issue.
And think about what that's doing. In America we have 6 million people who don't have college degrees. You can only be on welfare for so long, and I agree with that philosophy. But they have to work, they're going to have to get a job somewhere. So, if we're going to keep bringing in illegal labor--people who are willing to work for half, perhaps, of what an American citizen would demand or what the market would pay, you're not going to get any kind of a person willing to do a job like that. We are basically inviting people to come in and undercut our markets. Unemployment in Maryland right now is 4 percent--that's statistical full employment. So why in the world would we need to bring guest workers in? If we would pay higher wages to people, they're going to want to do some of these jobs. That's just the reality of the free market. And we're basically trying to get around the free market by bringing people in here who are illegal.
And I hear about a guestworker program where someone comes to America, they work for awhile, and then they have to go back to their country. That's not the America I know. That's not the American dream that I've ever had. In my view, when someone comes to America they come here because they want to be one of us, because they want to be an American, because they love freedom. Am I going to bring someone here and teach them to love freedom and then send them back? That's not the kind of America that I know, or the kind of America that I love, or the kind of America I would want to live in.
I'm also an airline pilot. I fly to Europe frequently. And I see what those guestworker policies have resulted in. Right now the Netherlands is basically requiring all of the people who came to their country legally to leave. They brought in too many, and they're losing their culture. In France, right now, 10 percent of the people in France are Islamic. They're in the midst, essentially right now, of a culture war. There is certainly nothing wrong with being Islamic, but I don't think that the French were prepared for the interplay with their institutions that it's causing.
So I think that we need to be, on a national level, very careful about some of these guestworker programs you hear about. I worry about their impact on Americans--lower middle class Americans, who have jobs that are labor intensive. They're still out there, and those people still need to eat. You know, charity does begin at home. You will frequently hear it said, you know, we need to have more compassion towards people who come here illegally. Well, in my experience, compassion without common sense generally results in tragedy. You only have to look at some of the welfare programs that came into being in the 60's to see that. And we have to be more realistic and understand that the taxpayers don't have a limitless supply of money to contribute toward the support of individuals who aren't even supposed to be here.
Delegate Black very elegantly and succinctly talked about some of these fiscal impacts. They vary from state to state. But you know the federal government literally requires the states to pick up Medicaid expenses for illegal immigrants. That doesn't make very much sense to me. It's very hard for me to understand the logic behind something like that when, at the same time, you're supposed to be discouraging illegal immigration.
I guess the final thing I would point out is, as bad as some of the things the federal government has failed to do are, I look at some of the states that pass legislation that give illegal immigrants driver's licenses or in-state tuition, and again, you have citizens saying, What is going on here? We have federal laws and states are passing laws that encourage people to break federal law. When you have different levels of government at war with each other, or laws that don't complement and support each other, it fosters a disrespect for the law that I think will harm this country in the long run and it's harming it right now.
Right now, you know, I look at this issue and it's up in the air. You hear Republican leaders in Congress talking about how they're going to strengthen the borders and we're just going to have a guestworker program. My great concern is that on the federal level they're going to try to come up with something that essentially is a little bit less than window dressing and do nothing to fix the problem. I think that one of the most important things we can do is something that Delegate Black has touched upon . . . you know, frequently we talk about the drug problem, they always say, hey, if you want to do something to get rid of drugs you've got to deal with the pushers first -- you've got to go after that. The reality is, is that we're going to have to get a lot tougher on companies that employ illegal immigrants. And that's going to take political will. And at this juncture, I'm not convinced that the federal government has the political will to do it. But I know one thing, of certainty, the people at the grassroots level have the political desire to get it done. And that's certainly the direction that I'm going to continue to go as I go forward in Maryland.
Because I do think people are concerned about this. I think people, from a commonsense standpoint, see this as a problem, and while people do have compassion, they also have a lot of commonsense, thank God. So, we'll keep fighting these issues within the states, and hopefully the federal government will eventually act on them.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Delegate McMillan. Let me take the prerogative of the moderator and ask the first question, and that is, what do you guys hear from your constituents? In other words, what issues are people upset enough about that they actually call in and complain about? what kind of things? And the reason I think of this is Delegate Black mentioned the Herndon day labor thing. And my experience has been that the day labor issue, wherever it comes up, is one of those things that gets people energized on the immigration issue, complaining about it, because it's right in their face. You know the effect immigration has on wages and stuff, that's kind of abstract and theoretical, whereas if the 7-Eleven across the street has a bunch of guys hanging around in front of it, that's something that gets people's attention.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Well, I'll just speak to the town of Herndon because this really has become sort of a national cause calibre to some extent. Herndon is . . . I think the reason it's so much in the news is it's sort of reached the crisis point in Herndon where you have hundreds of people who are drifting around looking for work, and what's its doing is it's undermining property values; it's undermining a sense of community order. I read some of the news clippings and you have comments from Hispanic mothers saying, I won't let my daughter go out because she gets catcalls from people who are hanging around drinking beer, the ones that didn't get picked up for work that morning. It's not an ethnic issue -- there are many of the Hispanics who moved in legally, who established good families and homes and they're worried about it.
I got a call from another woman--now this is a different issue--she said she is about to move out of her homeowners association, move out of northern Virginia because she said that we have very fine neighborhoods with expensive homes, people are purchasing them and they rent them out to three and four families and, all of a sudden, you've got all these old vehicles parked around, and nobody really can say, well, you know, are these people related? You go up to the door . . . and these are people who have learned--I mean, they've learned from their own government to violate the law. They actually have pamphlets published by the government of Mexico that says Here is How You Can Evade the Laws of United States of America. And they come in and, once they've learned that, well, if you evade one set of laws, why not evade another set? If somebody comes up and says, Do you all belong to the same family? Oh yeah. Sure. They know what the answer is supposed to be.
So it's very difficult when you have stable communities--if I were to get one of my friends and move him in, somebody would say, I've seen that guy, he's not part of that family. You know, we have three or four families living there . . .but when you have this transient nature to the communities, we don't know who people are, we don't know what their identities are. And they are coming from cultures that are not used to the careful documentation and careful record keeping. And they have been taught by their government, go in there, evade the laws of this country, and you've made it. This is the kind of problem we're seeing.
MARK KRIKORIAN: [turns to Delegate McMillan] any . . . I mean, you probably don't have as many immigrants in your district . . .
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: Actually, within the city of Annapolis we have a pretty large Salvadoran population. But I guess with respect to the feedback from my community, or from the community at large--it's not against any specific group of individuals, this isn't an ethnic issue. It's an issue of-- frankly, it's an issue of common sense. I've done many radio interviews on this issue, we've taken calls from people, and you know, I'll frequently get, Hey Delegate McMillan, I disagree with your views on taxes and fiscal policy but, you know what, I'm a liberal democrat and you're right. Why are we, in the midst of a fiscal crisis, doing this--giving in-state tuition benefits to someone whose here illegally? It doesn't make any sense. And why are we, after 9/11, even talking about giving a driver's license and an identity document to someone who, by definition, is undocumented?
So, I think that most common Americans just recognize that, look, we're all for legal immigration. We have a healthy admiration for the idea that someone wants to come to America and make a better life for themselves, and to become an American citizen because they love freedom and they love the opportunities that this country affords. But nobody likes to be used as a cash cow, or taken for granted, or have their laws shown disrespect. So that's the feedback I've been getting from my community. I've had very few people call up and say, you know, I think that people should be able to come here illegally and that they should have the same benefits that all American citizens do. I mean, that's just the truth, you don't hear that very often.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: If I could follow up on what Delegate McMillan said. I certainly agree with him--we're very much an immigrant culture in northern Virginia--we have a great number of immigrants and they thrive and they contribute very well. But it is the pace of change that's become overwhelming. I know that Congress is wrestling with the immigration problem, and frankly, I'm not inspired by what I see them doing because they're trying to wrap together border control and solving this myriad of problems internally. And I think Tom DeLay has hit it on the head, he said, Look, let's break these out--we're talking about soup and nuts here--let's control the borders. Until we do that, we're talking about trying to improve the situation at a local level, but when you have 64,000 people going across one 23-mile stretch of the Arizona border every month, there is no policy that can bring order to that sort of chaotic activity. We must seal those borders, we must get a grip on who has the right to be present in this country. Then we can begin to sort out these very vexing problems of what do we do with the people who are already here. How do we sort those who should be deported for criminal activity? Who are the ones who have lived here a long time and maybe we can find a place for them? But that will not work as long as there are millions streaming across borders that are simply . . . broken.
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: Can I just touch on that real quickly? I mean, if you have somebody who's injured, the first thing you do is stop the bleeding. And we have a problem here with the borders, and we need to stop the bleeding. We need to close off the borders. It seems like, on a national level, these politicians are engaging in this quid pro quo game. Well, we'll talk about sealing off the borders, if you talk about an amnesty program or a guestworker program or something of that nature. And there really shouldn't have to be . . . there should not be any debate about securing our borders. I find it very difficult to believe that that could even be part of the discussion because most Americans want to control their borders. So I think that that is the first thing that you have to do.
And one of the things that you're going to have to do, also, is make it more difficult for people who are here illegally to work. We need to be proactively engaging in a strategy that would make someone who is here illegally want to go home. And we're not doing that. We're not talking about doing things like that. And my question would be why are we talking about a guestworker program before we talk about ways of finding people who are here illegally . . . finding ways to make them want to leave because they won't be able to find work? We should be doing that on a federal level. The states are going to have to start doing it if the federal government doesn't.
MARK KRIKORIAN: We'll take some questions, if anybody has them. Yes?
Q1: I'm quite familiar with all of the excellent work that both of you have done in your respective general assemblies, and I hope that you'll forgive me for disagreeing with you on something. I don't believe that you can control illegal immigration so long as you admitting a million legal immigrants each year and having unlimited birthright citizenship in the United States. This isn't a question of compassion. There are at least 3 billion people in the world who are living far worse than the Mexicans are, and they would all like to come here under that basis. And I don't believe that people wait to come here.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Well I don't think we disagree with you, frankly. I think that it is a problem. And you touch on something else, which is the birthright immigration. We know that along the Mexican border, ambulance services are trained to bring expectant mothers across the border so that the children can be born and get their ticket in the United States. There's no earthly reason for doing this. This is a feel-good immigration policy that originated decades ago. There is no reason that someone should become a citizen simply because their parents slip them across the border and have their birth occur here.
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: I understand your concern and I don't profess to be an expert on some of these things with respect to how many people wait . . . but I do know people who have waited, for a long time, to come to this country, personally. And maybe it's anecdotal but Misha Voshelvoyem (sp) is from the Ukraine, and he's a friend of mine. He finished my basement; he has a construction company now, and he waited in Italy, for up to two years, before he was finally able to bring his family to the United States. So, I know he followed the rules, I know he did what was supposed to happen. And I don't think it's fair that when you have people that still are doing that, and have been very successful, by the way, once they've gotten here . . . and he does bring people over legally. He still does it and adds to his labor force. He brings people with skills over here to work. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. From my standpoint, my issue is illegal immigration, and while I might not agree with some of the things that the Congress does is setting legal immigration policy--maybe it's too many or too little or something of that nature--it should be the policy and it should be enforced once we have it. You know, I think it was Ulysses Grant who said that the best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it. If a law is bad, enforce it, and it will lead to change. But one thing you never do, in my mind, in a republic, is not enforce the law that you have already. That leads to disaster and disrespect for law.
MARK KRIKORIAN: [gestures] Yes, Frank?
Frank: I'm kind of surprised to hear you both say that you think that the first thing that needs to be done is to control the borders. Many critics of immigration policy would say that enforcement really begins at home, and that until you cover up the pie, the flies won't go away. Which would seem to say that the easiest thing would be to go after the employers that are employing the illegal aliens, and that in itself will give the aliens less opportunity or incentive to come home.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Well, I understand what they're saying, what their rationale is, but if you look at this idea that we cannot seal the borders . . . if you look at what this volunteer group of Minutemen did, with minimal organization, with zero budget . . . I mean, they just had no budget whatsoever . . . they went out on a 23-mile stretch of border that just has a flood of people coming across day and night and they caused an enormous embarrassment to the Federal government. Why? It wasn't because they did something improper. It was because they stopped the flow of illegal immigration with minimal effort and resources, and they demonstrated for the first time, really, in my memory, the ability to seal the borders. If the will is there, the borders can be sealed. I'm not saying that you seal off all commercial traffic and so forth, but you seal it, you bring it down to crossing points, you staff those crossing points, maybe you use biometric identification so you get a grip on who comes and goes. But it's do-able. And in terms of national priorities, a nation's first priority is to defend its own borders. And we seem to have military enterprises all over the world and nobody supports our troops more than me--I'm the only wounded veteran in the Virginia general assembly--but I've got to tell you when our borders are collapsing, that's priority number one. And if we have to use military forces to defend it, I would have no problem putting five divisions of troops on the American border until we get this under control. Instead of talking about 2,000 border control agents perhaps being employed, we need to be talking about 50,000 new agents. I mean, nobody believes 2,000 agents can do much on that border. It's just a game. We've got to get serious and we can.
MARK KRIKORIAN: [addressing Delegate McMillan] Would you like to, you mentioned the employment issue earlier?
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: I did . . . I mentioned earlier in my remarks the employment issue and how I thought that would be an effective way to deal with it, but I guess I would say, if you don't have the will to enforce your borders, you're not going to have the will to do anything else. Because, as Delegate Black said, that's the most basic . . . that's just the most basic reason for the design of government in the first place: to provide for the security of its citizens. That's like rule number one, mission statement number one of any government. And you have to be willing to defend your borders -- to enforce the laws at the border. If you're not willing to do that, you're probably not going to . . . you might pass a law, as we now have on the books, that says that employers would be prosecuted, but you're probably not going to do anything with it, which is the situation that we find ourselves in right now. I don't disagree with you that that would be a very effective means of dealing with this situation, but I guess the main point is that if you don't have the will to do A, you're not going to have the will to do B.
Like right now, the number of times you're arrested before you're prosecuted. You could, in some jurisdictions, cross the border, and the second time you're caught crossing, you're still not prosecuted, you just get sent home. They just send you back, and then they try again. The U.S. Attorneys keep jacking up the number of times you've got to be caught illegally crossing the border. I come from the school of thought that if you make a law, you should enforce it. I mean, what would it be like in the United States if you have a law against burglary but you didn't enforce it until the third time somebody was caught doing it? And actually, I guess, in some jurisdictions you kind of have that with some of the judges we have nowadays [laughter] . . . but I don't think the results are good. So, again, I certainly think that what you're talking about is an effective strategy, but I just don't think that anyone is going to utilize it if they don't have the political will to enforce the border.
And with respect to using the army: two thoughts on that. First of all, we don't have the manpower to do that and fight a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, it begs the question: if we're willing to go fight a war in Iraq and Afghanistan because they pose a terrorist threat to us, does it make sense to leave open something we could defend with civil resources, an area where they would be most likely to come in? And the data shows that there are a lot of Middle Eastern individuals who are crossing the border from Mexico into the United States now.
MARK KRIKORIAN: [gestures] Yes, sir?
Q3: Yes. ICE says in testimony before House subcommittees that it just doesn't have the facilities to hold the huge number of--and you're saying other-than-Mexicans crossing the border, and they estimate them to be about 70,000--and they just don't have the facilities, that's why they get indicted to appear before a judge and they usually don't show up--or a small minority of them show up for their appearance date--the rest of them melt into society. Without the funding to support more facilities to detain these people, what can be done? Or what would you suggest?
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: I have one thing that has always me as curious. I was down at the border in California, down around Tijuana, and I saw illegals trying to come across the border, and they would be stopped, and they would be sent back. And then as I stood there, I noticed that the agents would move on somewhere else, and the same people would then come right back over, and they would just try again. Frankly, I think what we ought to do is when people come across, I think we ought to intern them for about thirty days, put them on a ship, send them down to the very southern tip of Mexico, and drop them off there. Mexico is a long country, let them work their way back. At least put some sort of burden--and I don't want to be cruel or heartless to anybody--but if you simply say that breaking our laws just depends on being persistent because there is no risk whatsoever, there is no burden or hardship, it's never going to work. So give them a period of detention, it doesn't have to be terribly long, put them aboard ships, move them to the very southern tip of Mexico, and then if they're going to come back across, at least they have some sort of a hurdle to jump in doing it.
FOLLOW UP TO Q3: Could that bill ever be introduced in Congress? And who would do it?
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: You know, I'm not sure. I really wonder whether we will ever do anything other than simply let the southern portion of the U.S. collapse. I would hope that we will develop the will to take affirmative action. I hope that we gradually . . . until we can hire up a major force of border patrol agents . . . we're hoping that we draw troops down out of Iraq, and I hope we begin to shift them so that they can plus up the border until we get regular police officials there. We've got to do something and, frankly, the most impressive action that we've seen so far has been by citizens volunteers who went down and showed that we can do it. I think that it is possible, it is do-able, and if the people insist on it, then I think things will happen.
MARK KRIKORIAN: I have a question that relates to a couple of these questions, and that is that the states really can't do anything about legal immigration, that really is just a federal policy. The states also, unless you're on the border, can't do anything about border issues--I mean, in California, there's talk about starting up their own state border patrol, but obviously, Virginia and Maryland, unless they're going to have a border patrol to keep Virginians out of Maryland and likewise, aren't going to be able to do anything like that. And so, necessarily, it always ends up being illegal immigration issues, almost by definition. But, it seems to me and I was just wondering if anybody has any thoughts on this, one thing states can do is the legislature can vote to request or obstruct--well, they don't really obstruct--their congressional representatives to get on the stick and do something about this. Let's call on Congress, our representatives in Congress, to more effectively control the border or enforce the ban on hiring illegals, etc. Would that do any good and has anybody ever talked about anything like that, where the legislature would get sort of a sense of the Maryland General Assembly, or whatever?
DELEGATE HERB MCMILLAN: Of course, it could be done. However, to go back to Maryland, and I want to talk about this too because [gestures] you talked about how Virginia . . . Virginia, of course, has good safeguards against driver's licenses and, with respect to driver's licenses, requiring legal presence, and they've . . . with the in-state tuition issue. So does Delaware, so does Pennsylvania, so does West Virginia. So the point I want to make is, in a state where you don't have something that requires someone to have legal presence to get in-state tuition or a driver's license, guess which state is going to become the magnet for illegal immigration? I mean, think about it, it's a great deal: you can't get in-state tuition in Virginia, but maybe if you move to Maryland and their legislature passes legislation that'll allow that to happen, where do you think you're going to go? The word gets around. And, you know, one pocket of immigrants traditionally, and still today, encourages more to come where they are because it helps them co-locate and get established and so forth. And so, for states like Maryland, that have failed to proactively address some of these issues, I think, down the road, our citizens are going to pay a higher price because, as was previously discussed, we know how much illegal immigration can cost taxpayers.
With respect to resolutions and so on and so forth, you've got to move them through both houses. My state has shown less than admirable will to act on these issues that I just discussed, it would be problematic to get something out of our legislature to our congressmen and our two senators asking them to act on these issues. Virginia, [motions] . . . you know the political situation better than I do, I would say that you have a much better chance than we do.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Not with the governor, though . . .
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Well, we have sort of an odd situation in the way we handle resolutions in Virginia that does make that an impediment. But I think that, frankly, I think what we're doing here today has an impact. I think what the press is doing by reporting on this enormous number of issues is beginning to put some pressure on the federal government. The key at the federal level, I think, is to keep it simple. It's been my observation that when you get politicians and they're able to roll everything up into one piece of legislation, you're likely to get more bad than good out of it. Not to cast aspersions on all these wonderful people who represent it, but it's simply a fact. And that's why I really think that Congressman DeLay's approach, which is focused on border control, gives us the best opportunity of actually making something happen. That's a separate issue from dealing with the administrative problem of the immigrants that are here already.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Well, let's take one last question from a reporter if possible, are you a reporter sir?
Q4: No, no. I had a question on health, no one has mentioned this. At the meeting in Herndon, I brought this up. Some people had mentioned that these people coming across the border, 20 percent of them have contagious diseases, and the foremost of this would be TB. So I said, well, let's put this thing to bed. So I called up CDC Atlanta and I found out that in this country there are 15,000 active cases of TB. 51 percent of those are so-called foreign born--that euphemism for illegal and other aliens--and in Virginia, there's 352 cases. But I was interested in Herndon, where I live, and Reston, nearby, Fairfax County, so I called there, down in Richmond, and I got a number, 352 cases for Virginia, and Fairfax county, 95 cases. Well, how about Herndon and the rest of them? And then I called even closer, in Fairfax county, and I found out that there are 20 active cases in Herndon today, and Reston, that little area. And the interesting thing is, we don't have the 51 percent mix of aliens to non-aliens, it's 90. And in Herndon it's even higher than 90. In other words, out of 20 people walking around in Herndon and Reston today, 18 of them are potentially illegal or other aliens. Some do come from India and Pakistan, where this is endemic, but most of them come from South America and Mexico, in particular, and that's situation that exists right now.
DELEGATE RICHARD BLACK: Well, this is an issue. Many, many years ago my family was trying to help a woman come over from Havana. And she couldn't come for a number of years because she had been exposed to tuberculosis. We had very, very tight controls back in those days over who could come in, and ensuring that we did not bring in contagious diseases that had been suppressed effectively in this country. I am aware that tuberculosis problem . . . how rapidly that spreads I don't know, it's a very terrible disease, I know that. But, again, when we have immigrants that go through normal processes, and they have a regular application process which includes medical evaluations, then it does protect us from those things, and those protections have collapsed.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Well, thanks a lot, I appreciate your coming. I can't speak for the panelists, but I'll be here afterwards to be accosted if you have any other questions, they may also agree. Like I said, the transcript will be online at our site, https://cis.org/, at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future. And [I] hope you can make it to our next event. Thank You.