No halfway measures on illegal immigrants

No halfway measures on illegal immigrants

The recent image of thousands of protestors – many of them most certainly noncitizen illegal aliens – demonstrating in the streets of our largest cities and demanding their rights is an unmistakable sign of just how preposterous American politics can be at times.

But neither the silliness of their claims nor the rhetoric designed to confuse the debate can mask its seriousness. Illegal immigration, mostly from the border with Mexico, is a difficult economic issue but, even more importantly, it poses a real national security threat.

But what, if anything, will members of Congress do about it besides engage in cheap demagoguery on both sides of the issue? That remains to be seen because the chances of getting any bill through both the U.S. House and Senate, let alone one that reasonably addresses what to do about existing illegals and prevent future illegals, does not look good.

But, for starters, it's a good idea to get the terms of debate straight.

The issue is not immigration. This country has a long and revered history of allowing people from all parts of the world to legally enter this country in search of a better life.

The issue is what to do about illegal immigration, which involves thousands of people each year sneaking across our borders and taking up residence here in violation of law. Their mere presence constitutes a crime that is tantamount to a massive annual importation of poverty that costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars..

They do not come out of reverence for the American way of life, to live under the freedoms provided by the Bill of Rights or to become Americans. They come with one goal in mind – to work – and they would go anywhere to achieve that goal. That many, if not most of them, remain loyal to their home countries is no surprise. It would be more surprising if they didn't.

Nonetheless, there are an estimated 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants here in the United States, and they and their advocates are clamoring for another amnesty similar to what was given, supposedly for the last time, in the mid-1980s. This time it's called a guest-worker program. But it's the same thing since it would make their presence here legal, and that is what they really care about.

If given, guest-worker status also will represent a flashing green light to many millions more in other countries because it will show, just like the first amnesty, that crossing the border is like running past the finish line in a race.

Extremists on one side of the debate contend the illegals should be returned home because their lawlessness should not be rewarded. But this country's leaders have allowed the problem to become so large that it's simply impractical to find them and send them back home. Further, there would be severe economic consequences to businesses that employ them.

The best anyone can hope for and the minimum any legislation should require is staunching the flow of future illegals while the present illegals are assimilated, to the extent they will allow themselves to be, into American culture. That raises the ugly specter of taking effective steps to block entry by closing the lengthy borders that illegals now cross with virtual impunity. Does that mean a fence? Probably. Would it work? Who knows?

On the other extreme in this debate are those who think it's inappropriate, even racist, for this country to discourage illegal immigration. Their open borders policy is nightmarishly naive as it relates to economic issues but perfectly insane as a matter of national security.

These two key issues, cutting the flow of illegal immigrants and dealing with those already here, are critical to addressing this problem. Any legislation that carries one requirement without the other is doomed to fail.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions