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Whose country is this anyway?

Observing the pro-immigration demonstrations in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta and elsewhere in recent days, I wondered: Whose country is this? Why are many illegal aliens who broke our laws to get here and who continue to break our laws to stay here, demanding that the United States not only allow them to remain, but support them with the taxes of law-abiding citizens? Have we gone mad?

''Thousands Rally For Immigrants' Rights'' read a headline about the Phoenix march. What rights? If they are here illegally, they have the right to leave. They have no rights under our Constitution, anymore than I might expect the rights of a Mexican citizen should I choose to live illegally in Mexico. Marchers in Los Angeles carried Mexican flags, which should tell us about their primary allegiance.

There were work stoppages and school walkouts. Every person who left school or a job should be required to prove they are in America legally. If they cannot, or will not, they should be deemed illegals and deported.

Immigration is developing into a major political issue. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, made a bid for the votes of illegals and their enablers last week. Clinton promised to fight a bill passed by the House in December and debated this week in the Senate. It would subject illegals, and those who knowingly employ them, to criminal penalties. Invoking biblical justification for her opposition to the House measure, Clinton said it ''is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably Jesus himself.''

Democrats have been trying to make inroads on religious language and religious symbolism from the near-monopoly held by Republicans. But, like Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, who once spoke of the Old Testament book of Job as his favorite New Testament book, Sen. Clinton misfired. In the parable told by Jesus, robbers set upon a man, beat him, and left him ''half dead.'' A priest and a Levite passed by, refusing to help the victim. A Samaritan, despised by the Jews, stopped to help the man and also paid an innkeeper from his own pocket to care for him (Luke 10:30-37).

Notice that Jesus didn't call on a government program for help. As for how this relates to illegal immigration, Jesus never counseled breaking laws.

Here is the real problem with illegal immigration. Many Americans believe we are losing our unique national identity. Census Bureau figures indicate the Washington, D.C., regional population will become ''majority minority'' in less than a decade. The biggest influx between 2000 and 2004 was among Hispanics, a considerable number believed to be here illegally.

The same demographic profile is reflected, or will soon be reflected, in many other major metropolitan areas and, in the case of California, an entire state. It isn't race or ethnicity that bothers most legal residents of this country. It is our failure to make non-hyphenated Americans out of them. Instead of becoming English-speaking Americans, too many are retaining the language, customs, culture and political agendas of their native lands. No nation can long survive such an invasion without assimilation.

Forty-two states are considering bills related to immigration policy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nineteen of these states would restrict public benefits for illegals. Congress should act to create some uniformity.

A ''guest worker'' provision for those already here might work, but there should be restrictions on how long they can stay and a requirement that they return home before applying for legal admittance. Accompanied by much tighter control of our borders, such an approach would be in America's best interests. And could we please put this country's best interests first for a change?

Under no circumstance should there be amnesty for illegals, by whatever name politicians wish to call it. New illegal immigrants should not be allowed in until those already here are either fully and legally assimilated, or sent home when their work permits expire.

Too many politicians appear ready to sell the security of their country for the votes of illegals and their supporters. They must not be allowed to do so. Illegal immigration, along with national security, which are related, should be the top issues in the 2006 and especially 2008 elections.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and a host on Fox News Channel. Readers may leave e-mail at www.calthomas.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Thursday.