Immigration Takes a Lot of Thought
Imagine a 700-mile wall along the southern border of a nation that, according to one of its most enduring symbols, thinks of itself in this way: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Oh well, we always did want to be more like communist East Germany. That Statue of Liberty is just for show. Anyone think we actually believe that nonsense?
Guess not, judging by some of the rhetoric this week in Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Senate is debating immigration reform following the House's passage of legislation that would build that wall and make felons of illegal immigrants, who number an estimated 11 million.
There are two camps here. One, which includes President Bush, wants a guest worker program that would encourage existing illegals to declare themselves and put them on a path toward citizenship, while controlling their flow across a border that's out of control now. The other, led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calls that an amnesty that mocks U.S. law and punishes those who came and played by the rules.
Driving this debate are two concerns. One revolves around security, post-9/11. The other is economic, not just cheap immigrant labor and the consequences for consumers, but also the cost to taxpayers of providing services such as education and health care. Both sides have their points, but allow us to cast a vote for pragmatism.
First, anyone believe we can round up 11 million people and deport or imprison them at a reasonable cost? Get real. Second, our economy would be in a world of hurt if suddenly 5 percent of the labor force vanished.
Regarding security, this immigration is a relief valve for Mexico, which cannot employ them. Do we destabilize a poor nation with which we share 2,000 miles of border? Don't we have enough problems in the Middle East? As to amnesty, forcing these folks to pay fines and back taxes doesn't sound like much of a free pass.
Our prediction is that political self-interest will prevail. Opinion polls may be tracking resentment among many Americans, but majority Republicans also may be alienating two core constituencies. One is business that relies upon immigrant labor.
The other is religious groups with a humanitarian perspective. Is the GOP willing to lose America's fastest growing ethnic block, too? Most of the kids of these illegals were born here. As U.S. citizens, they'll be 18 soon enough.
Meanwhile, what no one is talking about is how to help Mexico build an economy that makes Mexicans want to stay. We should.
Unless we want to substitute the Statue of Liberty as the image America beams to the world for armed guards, barbed wire, mine fields and attack dogs. Really, what could the House of Representatives have been thinking? -- The Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star