American unilateralism in full flower Anti-Castro, anti-immigrant bills: No stopping such election-year legislation.

March 01, 1996

WITH HELP FROM the likes of Fidel Castro and Pat Buchanan, American xenophobia is reaching fever pitch as the election year unfolds. Two current examples are the latest Cuba confrontation and the drive by this nation of immigrants to get tough on immigrants.

Cuba: Because Mr. Castro sent his jets to shoot down two unarmed civilian aircraft, there is no stopping passage of a bill in Congress that tramples all over U.S. commitments in the field of international investment. President Clinton originally opposed this measure, which contravenes the very rules his administration is seeking in Paris negotiations. But with Florida and New Jersey electoral votes on the line, he capitulated after getting a waiver provision destined to embarrass him and future presidents.

Under the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act," foreigners investing in properties expropriated by the Castro regime can be sued by aggrieved U.S. citizens and barred from this country. It is being roundly denounced by our allies and by U.S. business groups as a violation of international law and another example of American unilateralism. The United States often preaches internationalism, but it is internationalism on U.S. terms and under U.S. rules.

No doubt the new anti-Castro bill will chill the flow of foreign investment to Cuba. But there is much doubt whether this will lead to the downfall of the Castro regime, or, rather, to further repression of a Cuban people deprived of liberalizing foreign influence.

Immigration: With Pat Buchanan vowing on the campaign trail to "stop cold" the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico and his competitor, Lamar Alexander, eager to set up a new branch of the armed forces to control our southern borders, there also seems to be no stopping legislation cracking down on illegals and the employers who hire them. It is an old problem with a new wrinkle. Non-citizens would be required to have official identity cards that some civil libertarians fear would be a first step to such controls on all citizens.

Facing a juggernaut, sensible lawmakers are trying to separate the "illegals" bill from other proposals to limit the number of legal immigrants to this country. The conservative Empower America group headed by William Bennett has pointed to the economic benefits America receives from the engineers, scientists and other experts who want to make this country their country. Mr. Bennett deplores the anti-immigrant sentiment heard on the campaign trail, especially the "hypocrisy" coming from Irish-American Pat Buchanan.

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