The American psyche, if not American resolve, has been deeply shaken by the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent anthrax scare. President Bush has warned that victory over the Taliban will not come quickly and the war against terrorism may never end. America could use some confidence-building measures right now.
It isn't that government is doing too little. We see officials parading in front of microphones and Pentagon briefers conduct show-and-tell sessions about bombs destroying targets in Afghanistan. We know a lot of money is being spent. Anthrax has infected the cable networks 24/7. We need the equivalent of the post-Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle raid on Tokyo. The raid, itself, had little military significance but did wonders for American morale, confidence and cohesiveness.
The United States has been the breadbasket to the world and has welcomed the world here. We have, and are, forgiving debt and handing out foreign aid alms like Scrooge when he faced his own mortality, though we have never been Scrooge-like in our generosity. We've enriched Arab nations by buying their oil; it's not our fault that they have failed to use those resources to better the lives of their people. Now we learn that many countries hate us, mostly because their political and religious leaders need an enemy to deflect attention from the economic and social misery at home -- for which they are largely responsible.
President Bush's signing of new laws to track down terrorists among us is an important counterstrike. But if public confidence is to soar like patriotism, we'll need to see something that produces immediate, visible results.
A bigger threat than anthrax is the huge number of illegal aliens in this country; the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 8 million of them. While blame for this can be equally shared by Republicans and Democrats, the Bush administration should order a massive roundup, deporting illegals to their countries of origin.
Amnesty granted to illegal immigrants, mostly for political reasons, has encouraged more of them to come here in violation of our laws. Census Bureau figures reflect plainly the problem we face. Approximately 2.7 million of the estimated 5 million illegal aliens living in this country in 1986 were given amnesty and awarded permanent legal residence. Now, Census Bureau estimates indicate this group has been completely replaced by a new wave of illegal immigrants, and that by 2000, the illegal population was 3 million larger than before the last amnesty.
The number of immigrants entering the United States annually -- legal and illegal -- more than tripled over the last three decades, from 9.6 million in 1970 to 31.1 million in 2000. As Steven Camarota, of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., notes in a press release: "No nation in history has ever attempted to incorporate and assimilate 31 million newcomers into its society. If policy remains unchanged, at least 13 million legal and illegal immigrants will likely settle in the United States over the next 10 years."
By absorbing so many legal and illegal aliens, America has lost something of the uniqueness that attracts immigrants. Political correctness has pressured our educators, media and other social forces not to shape these new residents into Americans. We've allowed them to form their own societies among us, rather than embrace American history, American traditions and American values. Our national motto -- out of many, one -- has become out of one, many. No nation can survive if it loses its identity and we're losing ours.
While reversing this downward process may take some time (and some will), deporting those who don't belong here will have the immediate benefit of ridding us of some terrorists and their cells. Then we should halt all but absolutely necessary immigration until the administration can develop a new immigration policy that puts America and Americans first.
The world has shown us that if we don't care for our own, no one else will. And if we aren't confident and strong, we won't have the capacity to be gracious and generous to those who truly need us.
Let the deportations begin.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
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