Opinion: Columnists

Respect the law and stop playing politics with immigration

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Opinion,James Jay Carafano,Columnists,The Pentagon,Immigration,Military Budget,Buck McKeon,Magazine

Herman Bottcher got around. Born in Landsberg, Germany, he immigrated to Australia with his uncle. Then, in 1930, he immigrated to the United States.

Two years later he applied for "first papers," the right to U.S. citizenship. He was going to college in California when the Spanish Civil War broke out. That changed things for Bottcher. A hardcore leftist, he joined the Lincoln Brigade to fight against the Fascists.

When Bottcher returned to the U.S. in 1939, he found he had to start his application for citizenship all over again.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bottcher tried to join the U.S. Army. The Army wasn't keen on the idea. It suspected that all Lincoln Brigade veterans were secretly Communists. And Bottcher's German heritage raised eyebrows as well.

Bottcher was finally allowed to join the Army as German citizen and was dispatched to fight in the Pacific.

In battle he was a lion. Amid the jungles of the Pacific, in some of the most vicious and desperate fighting of the war, he earned battlefield promotions that took him from the enlisted ranks to captain. During the battle of Buna in New Guinea, he led a desperate charge that won him the first of his two Distinguished Service Crosses.

He finally became a U.S. citizen on Dec. 31, 1943, while still serving in the Pacific.

Exactly a year later, Bottcher made the ultimate sacrifice. After fighting behind enemy lines for 40 days, he was killed by a mortar round in the battle of Leyte. To his men, he was a fighting "legend."

No one deserved more to be an American. Bottcher was an extraordinary man, who, despite every adversity, frustration, and setback, played by the rules.

Today as in Bottcher's day, immigrants who are lawful permanent residents may join the armed forces. Yet amnesty advocates in Congress want to add a provision the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow illegal immigrants to join the military--and be granted citizenship as a bribe for doing so.

How sad to see the citizenship that brave men have fought and died for become the plaything of Washington politicians. While legal immigrants wait years for citizenship, and some — like Herman Bottcher — give their lives in defense their adopted country, this legislative measure would give those who don’t play by the rules an express route to citizenship within months.

This bill is not only unfair, it's unnecessary. The armed forces have been hitting their recruiting and retention targets for years. There's no manpower shortage in the ranks. In fact, thanks to President Obama's insistence on defunding the military, the Army will be shedding hundreds of troops a week for years to come.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., has already declared he won't allow amnesty to be added to the bill during committee mark-up. Still, amnesty advocates are likely to try to add the measure as an amendment when the bill goes to floor.

It is far past time for the Congress to stop playing politics with immigration. Rather, Congress should spend a lot more time trying to get the president to enforce current laws and working on sensible reforms to lawful immigration and non-immigration reform that will get American employers the legal employees they need to grow jobs and grow the economy.

JAMES JAY CARAFANO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
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