PATRICK BUCHANAN, who vows to make illegal immigration a big issue in the California presidential primary next month, has unveiled a 10-point plan to solve the problem.
Mr. Buchanan, who concedes that he cannot wrest the Republican presidential nomination from George Bush, still hopes to influence White House policy.
He sharply criticizes the federal government for permitting millions of illegal immigrants to enter the country during the past several years.
Immigration is a particularly sensitive topic in California, where police reports indicate that large numbers of illegal aliens took part in recent looting and arson in Los Angeles.
Critics say Buchanan is exploiting the issue in ways that could heighten racial tensions along the US-Mexican frontier and in large urban areas.
Buchanan states his case bluntly: "The United States is now undergoing the greatest invasion in history, a mass immigration of millions of illegal aliens yearly from Mexico," he says. "The invasion is eroding our tax base, swamping social services, and undermining the social cohesion of the Republic. Our government seems paralyzed."
If necessary, Buchanan says, he would use the armed forces to turn back illegal entrants along the Mexican border, particularly south of San Diego and near El Paso, Texas, where the flow is heaviest. The US Border Patrol already detains more than 1 million aliens a year who try to enter the country unlawfully. But thousands slip through, often settling in cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago.
Warren Leiden, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, chides Buchanan for blaming newly arrived immigrants for the nation's problems.
"Buchanan is taping into a portion of Americans who are susceptible to this kind of scapegoating," Mr. Leiden says. He points out that earlier arrivals - Irish, Italians, and Jews - were also blamed for troubles.
Similarly, Doris Meissner, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says: "This idea of mass invasion and the rhetorical whipping up of frenzy of foreigners invading us is incredibly irresponsible, particularly in California."
Much of California's prosperity in recent years took place because of both legal and illegal immigration, Ms. Meissner says.
However, both Leiden and Meissner, as well as John Gwynn, senior analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., say they agree with several of Buchanan's proposals, such as beefing up border enforcement. Other points, such as amending the US Constitution, draw some opposition.
Buchanan's 10-point border security plan includes the following programs:
1. Build a series of sunken fences and concrete-buttressed, fine-mesh fencing along about 200 miles of the US-Mexican border in areas where most illegal aliens cross.
2. Boost the 3,700-person Border Patrol to 6,600, including 2,000 demobilized military personnel. If necessary, the armed forces could be used temporarily.
3. Provide border guards with more seismic sensors, low-light TV cameras, and other devices to make them more effective.
4. Operate highway checkpoints around-the-clock along Interstates 5 and 15 in California to nab illegals who have slipped past border guards.
5. Send illegal entrants from Mexico and Canada back to their cities of origin, rather than just dropping them at the border, where they can immediately return to the US.
6. Develop better methods to identify illegals who sign up for work by using false or stolen social security numbers.
7. Amend the United States Constitution to deny automatic citizenship to children born in this country when their mothers have entered illegally.
8. Provide mandatory prison terms for aliens convicted of felonies.
9. Deny welfare benefits to illegal aliens, who currently get free medical and educational care under court rulings.
10. Impose a border-crossing charge of $2 per person to raise $800 million a year for greater enforcement at the border.
Meissner says many of the things Buchanan suggests are "quite reasonable," but she adds: "I do not like them stated in this confrontive, militaristic way. But as a nation, we do not enforce our immigration laws as effectively as we ought to."
What she finds "very alarming," as do other analysts, are reports that illegal aliens were among the looters and arsonists who wreaked havoc in Los Angeles in recent days.
Altogether, 706 illegal aliens were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department during the rioting, and 605 of those have returned to Mexico voluntarily. The rest are still in custody.