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12/21/05

Immigration Reform

This is taken from an editorial in the NYTimes;

President Vicente Fox of Mexico has said it best: the immigration bill passed last week by the House of Representatives is "shameful" -a reflection of the power of xenophobic politicians who want to fence in America, lock up illegal immigrants and send them back where they came from.

Study that sentence for just a moment. "They want to lock up ILLEGAL immigrants and send them back where they came from." DUH! When you do something that is ILLEGAL, you can be locked up or deported! What a concept!

This shortsighted approach to the nation's growing immigration problem will not work. Cracking down on immigrants and their employers will succeed only as part of a comprehensive solution that includes a guest worker program and some path to longer-term legal status for those who are already here. The House bill, sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Peter King, Republican of New York, is just about "playing to the cheap seats," as Representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat, put it.

Again, DUH! There is a comprehensive solution to immigration already in place that many immigrants have gone through. It's called applying for citizenship. If you want the benefits, the jobs, and the freedoms this country has to offer, then apply for citizenship. To grant those same rights to people who sneak across the border instead of going through the legal process is a slap in the face to those immigrants who became citizens of this country legally.

As far as going after those that employ illegal immigrants, it will work, but only if you pass harsher laws for hiring illegal immigrants.

The only real hope is for the Senate to counter with a real package that deals with the whole complex problem, and the best starting point so far is the reform proposed by Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

But that kind of bill-making takes time, and Republican leaders in the House have apparently decided that anti-immigration will be a good theme for them in the 2006 elections. Indeed, there are polls that show most Americans are concerned about 11 million illegal immigrants. But bashing the people who take the hardest construction work or the dirtiest jobs cleaning hotels or changing diapers for middle America is not just inhumane. It could backfire, especially with Hispanic voters who might sense an undercurrent of racism in the keep-them-out talk. In a recent race in Virginia, the anti-immigration candidate lost.

It is not about race. That is such an old tired argument. This is about laws. There are laws on the books that allow people to immigrate to this country in a legal process. Many people have successfully become US Citizens in this manner. It is an insult to them, that people are proposing that others shouldn't have to go through the same process they did.

The other old tired argument is that these immigrants do jobs americans are not willing to do. That is such a crock. Americans are unwilling to do those jobs at less than a living wage. That is the fact and the bottom line of this issue. Big companies want cheap labor so they can make a bigger profit. Without this source of illegal labor, they would be forced to pay americans a living wage. They give large campaign contributions to politicians to make sure that immigration isn't controlled and that when a company gets caught hiring illegally, they are fined very little.

By Chris McElroy
More things that just piss me off

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