Conservatives Blast Federal Response to Illegal Immigration
Fred Lucas
Mar 5, 2007

( - As Congress considers how to deal with the illegal immigration issue, conservatives on Saturday discussed how they are handling the debate within their own movement.

"Powerful business interest want cheap labor and they found a loophole -- not in the law, but in the federal government's lack of enforcement," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said during a forum on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"Cheap labor is a commodity. If you flood the market with any commodity, it will drive wages down. For unskilled American workers, their purchasing power is down."

The problem extends far beyond economics, according to Georgia State Sen. Nancy Schaeffer, a Republican, who said the violent crimes in her state, including murders and sex crimes, were committed disproportionately by illegal immigrants.

The Georgia Legislature has passed laws denying government benefits to illegal immigrants over the age of 18, cracking down on employers that hire them, and clamping down on human trafficking.

"When there is no enforcement federally, the states are left with the crisis," Schaeffer said.

In Arizona, drug dealers cross from Mexico into the United States with little problem, said Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a border-watch organization that is pressing for federal curbs on illegal immigration.

Simcox said the federal government does little, even when problems are called to its attention. He mentioned numerous calls that Minuteman members have made to the U.S. Border Patrol with no response -- including an incident involving two men seen carrying drugs and an AK-47 across the border.

Simcox also said the recent conviction of ex-border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean -- sentenced to more than a decade each in prison for shooting a Mexican suspected drug smuggler -- sends the wrong message to agents in the field.

"Agents feel paralyzed after [the jailing of] Ramos and Compean," Simcox told the forum. "They fear doing their own jobs."

In a separate CPAC forum related to immigration, Randall Johnson, the vice president of labor and immigration at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said most immigrants want to assimilate into American life.

"The majority of immigrants want nothing more than to learn English as a second language," he said. "The key to assimilation is learning English. It's not a lack of desire, it's a lack of access."

However, John Fonte, director of the Center for American Common Culture, believes truly comprehensive immigration reform would require greater assimilation from immigrants who want to be Americans first.

That would mean ending bilingual education, stopping multi-lingual printing of government documents, and dropping bilingual ballots, he said.