Have you noticed that every time the Bush administration tries to tighten up U.S. visa requirements to combat terrorism, immigration advocates make excuses for those who violate our laws, or complain about how we're abusing the "rights" of illegal immigrants? Give me a break!
For example, after U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents detained 63 -- count 'em, 63 -- illegal aliens at the Stonewear, Inc., manufacturing plant in the Carson City industrial area earlier this month, the firm pleaded ignorance. "Stonewear was fooled," said company lawyer Scott Freeman, claiming that the illegal workers had presented counterfeit documents to prove legal residence in the U.S. I might buy that excuse if INS had captured three or four undocumented workers, but 63? I don't think so.
"In fact, Stonewear had been given an education on more than one occasion on how to detect counterfeit documents," countered INS regional supervisor Gregory White. "The documents we recovered were easily discernible as counterfeit." The INS proceeded to deport 45 of the illegal workers back to Mexico and scheduled hearings for the rest. The 63 illegals represented more than half of Stonewear's work force, which only demonstrates what I've been writing about for more than five years: some Nevada employers are disposed to play fast and loose with immigration laws due to lack of effective enforcement.
In the last major, publicized INS sweep in northern Nevada, 121 undocumented workers were rounded-up at the Atlantis Hotel-Casino in Reno about four years ago. Most of the workers were deported, but the Atlantis wasn't punished even though companies can be fined from $250 to $2,000 for each illegal worker they knowingly employ. So much for enforcement. That's why some Nevada businesses will continue to hire and exploit illegal workers as long as they can hire them without suffering any penalties.
So while I applaud the INS for cracking down on illegal immigration in our area, I suggest that the agency needs to conduct major sweeps more than once every four years. They might start with casino kitchens and then move on to manufacturing firms with emphasis on those that handle hazardous materials.
One problem, as I indicated at the outset, is that every time the Feds try to tighten-up immigration requirements, the do-gooders start hollering about due process and human rights. That's exactly what happened in May when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a new program to track foreigners who enter the U.S. on student visas, including those who want to attend American flight schools, as did several of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
The new program warranted a negative half-page spread in last Monday's Reno Gazette-Journal with University of Nevada officials claiming that 2,755 foreign students spent some $52 million in the Silver State last year. But does that mean they shouldn't have to comply with reasonable requirements in order to remain in our country? No, according to Rep. Jim Gibbons of Reno, who is vice chairman of the House Terrorism Subcommittee.
"Certainly we welcome people into our country if they enter legally and abide by the laws that regulate their stay," said a Gibbons spokesperson. "The problem we have had since Sept. 11 is whether the INS can keep track of these visitors." That's true because we already know that the INS renewed student visas for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers months after they crashed commercial airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade towers, killing more than 3,000 innocent civilians.
So I have little sympathy for people like Truckee Meadows Community College international student adviser Cheryl Woehr, who complained to the Gazette-Journal that the new visa tracking requirements constitute "a major headache for all institutions of higher education." I have a message for Ms. Woehr and her liberal friends: Better a headache than a bloody terrorist attack.
Having supervised large Fulbright educational exchange programs in three countries -- Australia, Peru and Venezuela -- I strongly support such programs. But, as a responsible citizen, I think it's only fair to establish reasonable requirements for foreigners who wish to study in our country. They, and their American advocates, must recognize that a U.S. visa is a privilege and not a right.
And just last week, the immigration lobby went ballistic when the Justice Department announced that all non-citizens would be required to report address changes within ten days of moving. The new plan, based on a long-neglected 50-year-old law, would apply to ten million legal immigrants who aren't U.S. citizens. To deport someone "for failing to report a change of address is like using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly," whined Washington immigration attorney Denyse Sabagh. But Justice officials defended the plan as "an important step to enhance border security" and to keep track of the whereabouts of non-citizens. Fair enough, because immigrants don't have D and shouldn't have D the same rights as American citizens, especially after Sept. 11.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.