Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 3/3/2006 [Archive]

Bay Buchanan at the Border

Bay Buchanan at the Border

Angela "Bay" Buchanan, pundit Pat Buchanan's younger sister, is getting more TV face time these days as a conservative TV analyst and chairman of Team America, a political action group founded by Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo that is "dedicated to securing America's borders."

She is crisscrossing the country on Team America's "Secure American Now" tour, trying to exhort voters to pressure their senators to support a tough immigration bill that would deny amnesty to illegals and build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. I talked to her Wednesday by telephone from her offices in Washington:

Q: What's the sound-bite version of why illegal immigration is the most critical issue facing the country today?

A: It adversely affects millions and millions of Americans. It undermines our security. It's increased out crime rates. It has affected our budgets. We have no control over our own border.

Q: It's pretty clear the current government-run immigration system is broken -- or not implemented very well.

A: It is not broken. There is no willingness on the part of our government to implement the immigration laws of our country or to enforce them in any way. Nor are they willing to secure our border, even in a time of war. There are few things the federal government is given the authority to do through the Constitution; this is one of them. It's not meant for states to defend our national borders and that is what we are asking them to do.

Q: What is your or Team American's solution to the problem of illegal immigration?

A: There are two things that need to be done immediately. We need to secure our border and there are a number of ways you can do that. One is in the bill that was passed by the House in December -- it calls for a fence. You can put up a fence, increase the number of border agents, and bring in the advanced technology, which we don't have there. Give them the proper tools to secure the border. It can be done and it is not enormously expensive. In fact, it is not anywhere near as expensive as the cost of illegal immigration to the American taxpayer today. Number 2 is to require employers to verify their employees. It's called "mandatory verification by employers." That's a simple thing. It's the system that's in place today. It's not the least bit burdensome or costly.

Q: Are these stronger steps to secure our borders a threat to our freedoms, by giving government more power?

A: In no way does what we are asking for give government more power, with the exception that local law enforcement will be able to enforce laws that are already on the books. This is not the case of increased power that would in any way threaten Americans. Basically, what we are asking is that our border be secured in time of war.

Q: What would you do with the 12 million to 15 million illegal immigrants already here?

A: Not one nationally known group is for rounding up illegal immigrants. That's just something that's used against us: "You guys want to round them up." America's not for rounding them up; neither are we for rounding them up. ... Right now, approximately 350,000 illegal immigrants go home on their own -- they just go home. They've been here long enough. They want to see their folks. Whatever it is, they want to go home. If we secure our border, and then if we did nothing else, 350,000 illegals a year would go home. There's another 150,000 who would come off the number of illegals -- some 50,000 to 70,000 become legal, some die, etc. OK, so there you have it: We'd be reducing the number of illegal immigrants every year, naturally.

If you then have mandatory verification, which this House bill passed in December says you must, you would start checking those who are now working for you two years from now. It gives you two years notice if you are illegally working somewhere. Illegal immigrants would see that in two years they would lose their jobs, so they would start making plans to leave. So instead of 350,000 you might have 450,000 a year who would voluntarily go home.

And then, if you are picked up for speeding or some other misdemeanor and you did not have legal documents, you would be sent home. We would not do any raids. It would take several years, but the problem each year would take care of itself. In 10 years, five years, eight years from now, I don't know when, we'll have 2 million or 3 million illegals. You're never going to get completely rid of them. But you would have it much more controlled and it would be no threat to the nation.

Q: Is there no other way to design and enforce an immigration system that would let more legal immigrants come here or set up a temporary visa system that would allow them to come and work and leave as easily as Mick Jagger can?

A: (Laughs) On the first point: We have the most generous legal immigration policy in the world, bar-none, no close call. I believe it's 1.3 million who are legally coming into this country every year. If people felt that is not enough, then they should go debate it in the Congress of the United States. ...

As for these so-called "temporary" guest-worker programs, there has never been a guest-worker program in the history of just not the United States but of the world --- Germany, France -- that has ever been anything but amnesty. It's all amnesty. It's just a two-step, three-step program to legalization.

It is the intent of our Senate to pass a bill that gives amnesty to 15 million illegals. Yet that is not what they will call it. They will call it a "guest-worker program." They will say it is really about securing the border and enforcing our laws, but what it is truly about is giving amnesty to 15 million so that the corporations can continue to hire people at rates that are far below what Americans have passed laws requiring employers to hire people at.

Q: Will you be using your famous organizational and money-raising skills on another presidential run for your brother Pat?

A: I talk to him often. Every one of the issues he raised in the 1992 and 1996 campaigns and again in 2000 are more alive today than they even were then. He was so right. You never say never, but I do not believe he will run for president again.

Q: So who would you like to see run for president in 2008?

A: I'd like to see Tom Tancredo (of Colorado) run. He's a populist. He understands the issues that are facing the working men and women of this country -- the family people -- unlike any other. It'd be ideal to find one of these establishment Republicans to happen to have a populist bone left in their body, but I don't see it. I see people in the Republicans as I do in the Democratic Party -- the leadership of both sides are so tied with corporate America that they've forgotten what is in the best interest of Middle America. We need people to express those views, so America doesn't give up on the Republican Party entirely and that we have a way to take the party back from the elite. I don't see how we can do it unless we can get somebody who truly and passionately will represent the people in this country -- and that is Tom Tancredo. He's the best person I can find today.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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