Some more Kennedy and McCain propaganda.

Arresting aliens
Enforcing immigration laws is not the role of local police.

August 16. 2005 8:00AM

New Ipswich Police Chief Garrett Chamberlain got 15 minutes of fame and a seat on the talk show circuit when he pioneered the use of criminal trespass charges to arrest illegal immigrants whose presence was being ignored by overworked federal authorities. Chamberlin misused the trespass laws to call attention to the pathetic state of America's immigration system.

How, the chief wondered, can a nation that allows 11 million people to live, work and wander about the United States while here illegally protect itself against terrorists? Good question.

But what Chamberlin and the police in Hudson who followed his example were engaged in was not law enforcement but political theater. Jaffrey District Court Judge K. Phillips Runyon was right to throw out the case.

Runyon's ruling was unequivocal. When local police officers arrested eight men for being in the country illegally, they were trespassing on federal turf. Enforcing immigration law is a job Congress reserved for the federal government. No uniform system would exist if state and local authorities were able to regulate immigration as they saw fit.

Though disappointed by the ruling, Chamberlin was quick to say he would respect it as the law of the land. The attorney general's office, which is mulling whether to appeal Runyon's decision, should do the same. Any appeal almost certainly would - and should - fail. Allowing each of America's thousands of police chiefs to decide when and whether to arrest illegal immigrants would be a disaster. Abuse and racial profiling would be inevitable.

Enforcement alone will never solve the problem. The pull of America is too strong, the hope it offers too great, the nation's need for unskilled labor too big. More should be done to control America's borders, but they will always be more or less porous.

The current system is a mess. It forces immigrants to risk death in the desert and then enter an underground economy where many become victims of unscrupulous employers, greedy landlords and loan sharks. It is a system that devotes enormous resources to chasing people who want to become law-abiding citizens instead of people who want to blow up law-abiding citizens.

A better approach would be to make it easier for people in search of the American dream to enter the country legally. While not perfect, a bill sponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy and John McCain would do that. Current rules limit to 5,o00 per year the number of visas available to the unskilled workers who mow lawns, pick produce and clean hotel rooms. That's about 100 times fewer than the economy needs to fill such jobs.

The Kennedy-McCain bill calls for offering 400,000 visas to temporary workers who can prove they have jobs. It allows the immigrants to stay for up to six years. They must then either return home or apply for permanent residency status or citizenship.

The bill calls for strict penalties for companies that hire illegal aliens. And it recognizes that the United States is not going to round up and deport 11 million of its residents. Instead, they will be allowed to apply to remain legally if they pay back taxes and a $2,000 fine.

Chief Chamberlin's frustration is understandable. Except for employers who profit by paying illegal workers substandard wages, no one likes, trusts or respects the current system.

Reforms like those contained in the Kennedy-McCain bill are decades overdue. Congress should enact them this year. Then federal authorities can focus on people who enter the nation to do it harm instead of those whose presence makes it stronger.