Immigration Sense and Nonsense
by James Hall from the Left
With two competing bills,
and visions, in Congress, America faces a choice in reforming its wayward immigration policies. One bill, the Senate’s, reflects a spirit of compromise that deals with the reality of immigration. The other, the House bill, sets America back by further criminalizing people who are
here to work for themselves and us.
From the way some are fulminating,
you’d think America was under an invasive attack by unregistered aliens, or that al Qaeda was directly linked to Mexico. Haven’t we suffered enough by falsely linking terrorism to failed foreign and
domestic policies? This is all about economics, not the war on terror.
If this hysteria continues,
the transition of our beloved country to a Soviet-style police state isn’t far away.
Because of terrorist fear-mongering, we already have unconstitutional wiretaps, illegal search and seizure, and the
withdrawal of habeas corpus and lengthy imprisonment without trial. All we need
is our own Berlin Wall and divisions of machine-gun toting border guards to win the look-alike contest with the Soviet Union.
The hysterical yapping
of the punishers ignores the obvious. These people came here, risking their lives,
to work and build, not tear down and destroy. And they have helped our economy
remain the strongest in the Western World. In places in America where there are
the most undocumented workers, the economy is roaring along. I live in Florida,
a place awash in the undocumented. Our jobless rate is 3% in the state, the lowest
rate in the country, and companies are begging people to come to work.
Don’t tell me these people
are taking jobs from Americans. They do the jobs that unemployed, lazy Americans
turn their backs on. They work in the kitchens; they clean hotel rooms and offices;
they pick our crops and watch our children. They provide local American entrepreneurs
with a hard-working cadre of willing workers.
Yes, they’re here illegally,
a crime that’s technically a misdemeanor, payable with a fine and deportation.
They crossed the border without documentation, and many of them obtained documentation fraudulently. So, show me a victim of these crimes, those of you who are the descendents of immigrants, many of whom
arrived undocumented themselves—but before there was a law against it.
The vast majority of
the undocumented don’t wear ski masks, don’t rob and rape, don’t prey on the weak and helpless. They’re here to work at jobs that pay twenty times what they could earn in their countries of origin.
If we’re that concerned
with millions of people who have committed misdemeanor crimes, then what about all the Americans
who break our misdemeanor laws? These illegal Americans speed on the highways,
jaywalk, and cheat on their income taxes and divorce agreements. Perhaps after
we deport all the illegal aliens, we can go after all the illegal Americans and
make our transition to a police state complete.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m
not any happier than most people are with the state of immigration policy in America.
We need improved border security. We need background checks of those who
are in the country. We also need rational reform, a reform that recognizes the
role of the immigrant who comes to America to work, and recognizes the need of some American industries, like the agriculture,
hospitality, and construction industries, for low-cost, hard-working workers.
Every worker who comes to America
should be documented, and a national registry of these workers can separate the people who are here honestly to work from
those who come here with more sinister motives. A national registry of workers
allows immigrants looking for work to be matched with jobs that are needed. It
reduces and ultimately dries up the motive for illegal border crossings by those looking for work. When an entrepreneur can easily get a legally documented worker, why should he settle for an illegal?
So what should we do with the
worker who’s here illegally now? There are some eleven to twelve million
of them, a logistical nightmare to track down and deport. (Not mention the police
state environment that this would create in this country.) Many of them are already
established in the country, with employers who count on them. Some are married
to Americans and have children who are American citizens.
The answer is not amnesty,
but justice. First, register them, document them, background check them. Then charge them with their crime. Make
them pay their misdemeanor fine, pay back taxes, and serve community service hours.
If they want to become citizens, they must go to the back of the line of those applying for citizenship. The Senate’s bill would do all these things.
Once we have our current undocumented
aliens documented, and future workers coming in documented in a guest worker program, filling all needed jobs in this country,
the job market for illegal aliens dries up. The number of illegal aliens
declines to those with truly illegal purposes—drug smugglers, illegal importers, and terrorists—and catching them
without documentation becomes a manageable law enforcement issue.
If we deal with the cause of most illegal immigration—the search for economic opportunity that is as American as apple pie (and
the reason our own ancestors came here)—then the effect, the massive undocumented
surge of foreign workers, disappears; and we are left with the much smaller problem of tracking down those who really mean
us harm. Otherwise, we are left with the cost of divisions of border guards,
police going from house to house to search and question and examine documents, and our own Berlin Wall. The American Police State, God forbid. Encourage your Congressman
to support the Senate’s version of immigration reform.
Opponents of complete immigration
reform are neither truthful to the debate, nor fair to those who depend on the undocumented living in our country. They claim that the Senate bill is amnesty, when amnesty isn’t on the table at all. They avow that illegals are invaders, instead of individuals seeking opportunities for themselves. Worse of all is their vindictive attitude towards mostly-poor, hard-working individuals,
some of whom have good jobs, families and children in this country who would be affected by the draconian measures the House
bill would create.
It’s plain silly, and a violation
of the English language, to call the Senate bill’s requirements for citizenship for illegal aliens ‘amnesty.’ “Amnesty,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the act of excusing
or forgiving an offense—in this case breaking immigration law, a misdemeanor offense.
But the Senate bill doesn’t excuse or forgive anything. Its provisions
require eleven year’s residency, good conduct, a steady job, knowledge of English, and passing a difficult citizenship
exam to be eligible. Fines and community service, which are traditional for misdemeanor
offenses, must be met as well.
That’s not excusing or forgiving
anything. It’s a much rougher pathway that what most misdemeanor violators
face. It’s not letting off the perpetrators lightly, and it’s certainly
not amnesty. Those angry at the Reagan-era amnesty deal will have to come up
with a more accurate choice of words to characterize the penalty portion of this bill than the word ‘amnesty.’
(Note to the English-only crowd: if
you insist on using English, use it correctly, please.)
Equally dishonest, if not downright
silly, is the characterization of these immigrants as invaders. Illegal or not,
the vast majority of immigrants are in the United States not to seize territory back for Mexico or to serve Al Qaeda by attacking
Americans. They’re here to work.
When was the last time you heard of a conquering army hammering roofs, weeding gardens, or washing dishes? When do invaders pick strawberries or watch children and seniors for the minimum wage? These ‘hordes’ of cheap, dependable, and hard-working people have actually smoothed our economic
engine and contributed to the strongest economy in the world.
Hiding behind the word ‘illegal’
is equally wrong. These people are, for the most part, not career criminals. For most migrant workers, crossing the border without the proper documents is the
only crime they have committed. Nor did they take their crime for granted: in
most cases, crossing the border was an expensive and dangerous proposition. Many
risked death to get here; many were abused here because they were undocumented.
What of the theory of waves of polyglot
speakers as a threat to English? This idea shows ignorance of the immigration
history of our country, of waves of non-English speakers, adults who slowly learned English while their children quickly learned
it in school. In a generation these waves of foreigners, speaking Yiddish, Italian,
German, Swedish, Russian, and Greek became indivisible from the rest of America. This
happened before; it will happen again—as a teacher in a school that’s 75% Hispanic, I see it happening before
my eyes. My students, many of whom have parents who speak English poorly or not
at all, are excellent English speakers and virtually indistinguishable from their Anglo-Saxon peers.
Besides being dishonest and silly,
critics of the Senate bill are unrealistic. Their attitude is that we can easily
solve our problems with an enforcement-only approach. But closing our 2000-mile
border with Mexico is virtually an impossibility. Fencing will cost billions;
patrolling the fence more billions. Equally unrealistic is the idea that we can
deport twelve million illegal workers without disrupting our economy and causing pain to the millions of Americans, some of
them children, who depend on them.
It’s time to wake up to reality. An unrealistic attitude towards complete border security will only lead to cost and
pain. Silly fears about Spanish-speaking invaders must be banished. Have confidence that this wave of immigrants has the same goals as all the previous waves—one nation,
indivisible. The Senate bill, a comprehensive approach, works on all elements
of the immigration problem and can dry up further illegal immigration as it identifies and separates those who are here to
work from real criminals and terrorists. Time will solve the other problems,
as it has done in the past.
James Hall, From the Left