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Isakson, Chambliss may be wasting their time trying to solve immigration

If I were king of America, Johnny Isakson or Saxby Chambliss would be my choice for governor of Georgia. They generally have sound instincts.

Certainly, both senators have the right idea about immigration reform. Sen. Isakson has his priorities straight: Seal the borders first and then worry later about accommodating the fugitive class that has already landed in the United States.

Chambliss believes the nation ought to go slow in clearing a path to citizenship and amnesty for millions of illegal refugees. He also understands that Latinos are a vital source of labor in a half-dozen major Georgia industries. Inflicting pain and hardship on common workers doesn't accomplish anything, except create more hatred. We Americans are hated enough. Let's not add to it.

The feds' recent raids on small-time employers of illegal immigrants appeared to be punitive grandstanding to cool off public criticism of the government's worst failure in history.

If the federal enforcers really wanted to round up trainloads of illegal workers, they would hit southeast Georgia's onion fields. Throngs of migrants toil there. In carrying out such a raid, however, the immigration agents also could damage a significant agricultural industry. We can't have that.

What's that? You say that federal immigration officials raided the onion fields in the 1990s and swept up hundreds of undocumented laborers? The raiding parties did not receive commendations for their good work, but rather our congressmen hit the ceiling, contending the agents bullied farmers. So much for trying to penalize employers. Burned once, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are probably in no mood for an encore.

Unfortunately, both Georgia senators appear now to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to have much impact on immigration reform. The Isakson-Chambliss approach to undoing the Gordian knot of immigration has been all but ignored in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate last week passed a bill that places outlaw immigrants on the road to amnesty and citizenship. Both Georgia senators were on the losing side of the vote to approve the bill. The House favors a stricter measure that puts border security first and sets up a system for collaring illegals. If you hold these contrasting bills up to a strong light, however, you may see the following invisible writing between the lines:

"This legislation is not really about immigration. It is written to help its principal sponsors win re-election in the fall or possibly seek the presidency in 2008. It also is drawn to avoid imposing harsh penalties on big businesses that employ illegal workers. Remember, fellow office-holders, Big Biz gives big bucks. Whether the Senate and House can compromise on a final version is not important. We can work out those details next year or the year after."

Isakson and Chambliss may be wasting their time and our money in trying to make a dent in Washington, but nothing much better is happening in Atlanta.

Our governor is publicly obsessing on stopping gay marriages and privately managing his recently acquired multimillion-dollar holdings in Florida real estate. (He may know something that we don't.) Georgia already is a headline maker in dealing with illegals. Every mention of Georgia in the national media says we have the meanest immigration law in the country. Economic development folks shiver at the perception of Peach State xenophobia.

Too bad that neither Isakson nor Chambliss was in the governor's office when a mentally challenged General Assembly hatched the immigration bill. Either man might have modified it enough to avoid serial negative publicity in the national media.

We have said this before. Our government has betrayed us on immigration. Someone ought to mention treason when they pry into the recent history of how we threw open our borders 20 years ago to anybody who didn't mind getting their feet wet. Or how our lawmakers failed to enact a clear and comprehensive definition of born-in-America citizenship.

In the eyes of many thoughtful observers, open borders and immigration present a greater long-term menace to the United States than Iraq and the war on terrorists.

The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement created massive shifts in our political tectonic plates. Old alliances collapsed, and new ones sprang up. Almost overnight, the Democratic solid South became the Republican solid South. Immigration carries the potential for the same kind of realignment.

Failure to control the immigrant problem means our defined border will shortly disappear. Our nation will be flooded with additional millions of migrants whom we do not need or want. The world's greatest bastion of freedom will collapse because selfish, greedy members of the U.S. government refused to act for the greater good. Instead, they followed the Pied Piper's tune of finding more cheap labor for Washington-friendly industries.

Our only hope may lie in our senators making more waves and taking sterner stances. Neither is up for election this year. So what have they got to lose? W. will soon be headed back to Texas.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.