Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Kerik's Immigration Flop Renders Him Unfit to Serve

Since former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrew his nomination to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security on Friday, we have seen a lot of dirt fly. Indeed, much of what is now coming to light on a national scale -- rumors of Kerik's misuse of police resources, shady business deals, links to organized crime, and so on -- has been known, or at least has been alleged to be known, by journalists in the New York area for years. Those who have never liked Kerik have seized the moment to paint the man as a monster, and they are enjoying their fifteen minutes.

Let us assume, however, that the above allegations against Kerik are untrue -- call them a figment of a zealous press imagination. Let us further assume that the only thing Kerik technically did wrong was that he had hired an illegal alien several years ago as a live-in nanny and housekeeper. (This remains the official White House line. We shall see how long it lasts.) Let us also assume that it is true, despite some of the rumors that there is no housekeeper, and the mention of a housekeeper is a carefully crafted smokescreen to avoid the bigger problems. In my opinion, this alone should be enough to prevent Kerik from being placed in charge of this Nation's homeland security.

I'll bet some of you think that is a bit harsh. You probably think it is no big deal that he hired an illegal alien, since so many others do it. You probably think the American economy would grind to a halt of immigration laws were actually enforced. You probably also think something so minor as a violation of federal law should not prevent people from holding executive branch posts. And I will bet you also believe that no one should suffer the same fates as Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, the first two women who were nominated by Bill Clinton in 1992-1993 to be his Attorney General, but, like Kerik, were ultimately forced to withdraw their nominations because of previous illegal hires.

On all of the above, you would be wrong.

There is no more important duty of future homeland security officials than t0 strengthen and enforce this Nation's immigration laws. There is a growing undercurrent of realization among Americans that immigration is not only a part of the homeland security framework, but is in fact the single biggest issue within that framework, and that it needs to be addressed. These same Americans understand that (if I may make the point by analogy) you can have the fanciest state-of-the-art home security alarm system in the world, with all sorts of bells and whistles, but it is destined to fail if you do not keep your doors closed. (If you think I'm exaggerating about a growing nationwide sentiment in favor of enforcing immigration laws, check out this year's electoral battle over the anti-illegal immigration ballot measure in Arizona, or Congressman James Sensenbrenner's recent attempts to include immigration reform in the intelligence reform bill.)

Kerik's hiring of an illegal alien to (literally) do his dirty work speaks more about his lax view of current immigration policy than a thousand speeches on the subject. By hiring an illegal alien -- whose first official act in this country was to break the law -- Kerik essentially endorsed illegal immigration, and in so doing rendered himself unfit for service in this particular post (in much the same way Baird and Wood rendered themselves unfit to be the predominant law enforcers of the land by hiring their own illegal workers). Hopefully, the Bush administration will nominate someone on the second pass who not only thinks immigration issues are relevant to homeland security, but understands that they are essential to ensuring homeland security.

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