By Alan Nathan © 2006 Washington Times

There are more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, while another 400,000 enter from Mexico every year. The tedious and atrophic arguments of “stop being xenophobic because we need them for our economy” vs. “they make us less secure and drain social services” are at a hopeless impasse. The dueling proponents sound like drunken sailors in a sinking ship debating whether they should plug up the hole or bail out the water. There is a way to bring these sides partly together and prevent the drowning.

We should put up a wall or a fence at both the northern and southern borders to the United States, and create a fast-track apparatus to citizenship for all non-documented aliens without criminal records. We could significantly shrink the hemorrhaging traffic while providing to illegal residents a strong enough motive to come forth and reveal their identities for the record. It’s a Solomonic compromise delivering unambiguous toughness at the borders while enhancing our national security through non-xenophobic means.

Past amnesty programs have failed despite the upside of luring illegal aliens into the light of public notice because lawmakers allowed for the downside of creating incentives for more illegal crossings. Without the counterweighing prevention of a wall at the borders, otherwise laudable gains were sadly neutralized. When they’re not done together, everybody loses.

Those liking walls but hating amnesty will rightly point to the unfairness inflicted upon foreigners who endured the mind-numbing challenge of applying for citizenship legally. For those immigrants, such a compromise is truly a smack in the face. However, unless we’re willing to allocate the necessary assets for the managed expulsion of illegal aliens, we must choose either the ongoing national security risk of 12 million non-documented people, or the removal of that vulnerability through their legalized residency. It would also prove economically beneficial in that we could then collect their taxes to fund the very social programs they use but don’t financially support.

Those liking amnesty but hating walls shall have a less tenable position. A nation without protected borders is not a real country because their absence makes us nothing more than a continuation of the country next to us. Echoing numerous congressional members while on NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show,” Katty Kay of the BBC likened such a strategy to the Berlin Wall. However, what she and other amnesiacs misplace from history is that the Berlin Wall separated a common people while this barrier would protect a common people — it can’t be dividing Americans if it’s physically encircling them.

Recently in Los Angeles and elsewhere, we’ve had immigrants protesting passionately with signs reading, “we are not criminals.” While that’s mostly true, it’s the measure of nothing. All nations have the right and obligation to protect their citizens through strengthened borders and those entitlements are not contingent upon the approval of any foreign citizenry. And while the vast majority of illegal immigrants from the south are not criminals, their existing lawbreakers are numerous enough to justify concern.

On Jan. 10, the Associated Press reported that federal officials had alerted Border Patrol agents that Mexican smugglers were angry over increased security and would be transporting members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang or (MS-13) into the United States. Their mission is to perform multiple killings of Border Patrol agents along with committing other crimes necessary to increase their financial prowess. Originally formed by El Salvadorian immigrants residing in Los Angeles, MS-13 has 30,000 members throughout 33 states, including Virginia, Maryland and the District. The feds have not withdrawn this warning as they remain an ongoing threat — time for us to grow up.

Imbecilic and racist are those who fail to understand that 97 percent of these immigrants are quality people any country would be lucky to have as eventual citizens. However, only morons would contend that the politically correct fear of being labeled a racist somehow trumps the right to protect our borders.

Unfortunately, despite its wanting relevance, the race card is often used whenever discussions over this subject ensue. Regardless of the practitioner’s ethnicity, too frequently this tactic proves to be the bigot’s first move though he parades himself as the one first aggrieved by prejudice. Regrettably, this results in camouflaging ignorance as if it were progressive enlightenment.

Because we’re a nation of immigrants, we’re also a country of many races. But the Los Angeles protests were conducted in a way that says tightened security and racial openness are mutually exclusive and this exposes a disturbing myopia. In multiple polls across multiple racial lines, the majority of Americans consistently argue for a clampdown on illegal immigration. Consequently, the black, Hispanic, Asian, white and Middle Eastern citizens of this country are entitled to have some benefit of the doubt exhibited by those aspiring to become their fellow citizens.