07 December 2006


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, mentioned frequently as a possible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, today called for a multi-step approach to fighting illegal immigration that not only includes tougher border controls but an increase in legal immigrants and a road to legality for the 11 million illegals already in the country.
Breaking it down to its basics, it's a four-step plan, which includes better border security, a boost in the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country each year, a "path to legalization" for illegals already here and cracking down on employers who hire illegals.
Of the four parts of the plan, Richardson said securing the border must come first. The border can be secured, Richardson said, by putting enough National Guard troops on the border, on a temporary basis, to keep it secure, hiring enough border patrol officers to cover the entire border and relieve the National Guard of its temporary role there, provide the best surveillance equipment available and step up talks with Mexico about the importance of its help in maintaining the integrity of the border.
Richardson said one way to ensure the Mexicans will not cooperate is to erect a fence along the border.
"We must understand that building a fence will not in any way accomplish that objective. No fence ever built has stopped history and this one wouldn’t either," Richardson said in a speech today to unveil his plan. "The Congress should abandon the fence, lock, stock, and barrel. It flies in the face of America as a symbol of freedom."
Richardson, in the speech, also argued that the pool of unskilled labor is not large enough to meet the needs of the U.S. economy and proposed increasing the quota of legal permanent and temporary immigrants to 400,000 a year and boosting the quota of workers' family members to 960,000 a year from the current 480,000. The numbers, Richardson suggested, could be adjusted to meet the needs of the economy in any given year.
In order to help employers in their efforts to hire only legal immigrants, Richardson is proposing a "national, non-duplicable electronic worker identification document to be used exclusively for employment purposes."
And then there is the matter of illegal immigrants already here. Richardson says any proposal to round them up and deport them would be unworkable and against the American spirit.
"The number of illegal immigrants is five times the number of inmates in all American prisons combined. Our economy could not stand the shock of losing all these workers, and our national conscience would not countenance arresting millions of men, women and children. We did this to Japanese Americans in 1942, and we rightfully regret that abandonment of basic American decency."
Instead, Richardson proposed illegals already here be made to pay back-taxes and a fine for breaking the law, learn English and keep a "clean record."
"If they meet all of these requirements, we should say, 'Welcome to America. You’re now a legal worker. Just remember, you’re our guests and you must continue to follow these rules, and those that don’t will face the consequences,' " Richardson said.

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