Washington — "We found growing anxiety, even outrage, over an immigration policy that is out of control." That is the statement of Dr. Lawrence H. Fuchs, executive director of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, in an interim comment on the commission's studies which will be made public early in 1981.
There's growing public anger and it's cited by Michael S. Teitelbaum of the Ford Foundation, writing in Foreign Affairs in the fall issue. He quotes a Roper poll showing that 91 percent support "an all-out effort to stop illegal entry into the US of 1 1/2 million foreigners who don't have entry visa." Yet the illegals come in.
Working three shifts a day on the Mexican border there are at no time more than 300 border patrol officers with three helicopters, guarding 1,900 miles. They can't do it. Nobody knows how many illegals there are in the United States. The guess if from 6 to 8 million. As for legal entries, the US accepts on the order of twice as many as the rest of the world combined.
The American generosity is unique. It is the more remarkable because there are between 6 million and 8 million Americans unemployed. What other nation would let in foreign workers at a time when its own citizens lacked jobs? Meanwhile the illegalsm probably outnumber the legals. Using italics to emphasize his point Mr. Teitelbaum says, Net immigration on this scale is at or near the highest level ever experienced in American history."m The immigration influx currently represents 40-50 percent of annual US population change.
America is just as generous in settling refugees. To give one example, Japan has settled a total of 276 Indochinese refugees, as compared to the 373,747 settled by the United States.
Congress writes quotas on immigration, but the laws are not being enforced. There has been no such breakdown of enforcement since Prohibition. Some border areas are becoming bilingual. There are dangers in this situation, as Mr. Teitelbaum puts it: "An obvious political risk of inaction is the stimulation of an uncontrollable backlash that would go well beyond the issues of policy incoherence and lax enforcement, and would threaten the basic openness of American society to access by immigrants and refugees."
It will be interesting to see what the report of the select commission on immigration has to say. The chairman of the commission is Fr. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame.
The crucial thing seems to be whether Congress will pass legislation punishing employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Such a law could only be effective if there were nonforgeable identity cards to prove a worker was legally in the country. Americans are reluctant to require identity cards that smack of totalitarianism. The alternative would seem to be to seal the border -- a step reminiscent of totalitarianism too.
Of course we could just go on pretending to enforce the law and not doing it, as at present. We can avert our heads and look the other way. That as disagreeable consequences, too. Says the Teitelbaum article: "The Immigration and Naturalization Service and its associated border patrol have long been both the whipping boys and the laughing stocks of the executive branch. It is notorious that they are -- simultaneously -- under-funded, mismanaged, undermanned, inadequately supplied, driven by internal dissension, and politically manipulated, yet they are routinely pilloried for failures to fulfill assigned missions under such impossible circumstances." Shall we continue that?