Time to be right, not righteous
Vail CO, Colorado
An immigration bill being tossed around in the Senate was in danger of dying by Thursday afternoon. What began as a bipartisan compromise on the divisive topic of illegal immigrants has been pummeled by self-righteousness on both sides of the debate. If this measure leaves the Senate, we could be left with little more than emotional appeasements and lip service proposed as a law. In other words, something other than the meaningful, thoughtful and enforceable immigration policy our country so desperately needs.
Our country’s failed immigration policies have a significant impact on Eagle County residents. Our resort economy depends on jobs that don’t pay well, don’t require much skill, but do require hard-working people and plenty of them. Our demand for workers who can answer the call is precisely why we have so many immigrants ” legal and illegal ” living in our valley. That demand shows no signs of abating.
Every year employers say they are finding it harder and harder to fill their positions. There aren’t enough Americans, or too few of them are willing, to take these jobs.
We have families living in our neighborhoods who are here illegally. We have children in our schools who are sons and daughters of illegal immigrants. Chances are, almost everyone in the county has brushed paths with, worked alongside, has been helped or has helped an illegal immigrant.
Violent criminals, illegal or not, should pay the price for their crimes. But justice is harder to find when so many of those criminals can’t be identified. Many illegal immigrants are breaking the law by using false identification to obtain work. Many don’t make enough money, or lack health insurance, and must rely on taxpayer-funded programs to get the help they need. Even if they aren’t paying much for taxes themselves.
Frankly, the STRIVE bill as it exists now, has plenty of flaws. The proposal now calls for visas for only 200,000 workers annually, half what the Bush administration proposed, and significantly less than what our economy needs. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are 12 million illegal immigrants in our country, and one out of every 20 workers is here illegally. Imagine what would happen to our economy if more than 98 percent of those workers were deported.
The bill also put a five-year limit on the guest worker program.
The bill still calls for building a silly border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, apparently an appeasement to those who believe nothing less than an expensive, physical border will secure the nation’s borders. We doubt that even a wall could keep out those determined to get in, but it will keep them from going home.
The penalties illegal immigrant workers would have to pay are fair. So is barring law enforcement agencies from seeing the visa applications from those illegal immigrants hoping to gain legal status.
The intent here is to get people in the system, documented and identified. The fear of deportation from merely applying would simply encourage these immigrants to continue living in the shadows.
At long last we need to approach this problem rationally.
Enough with the nativists’ shreiks against giving any illegal immigrant a pathway to legal status; their view ignores the human element of illegal immigration, the realities of our economy and is fueled mainly by a xenophobic fear.
And enough with the emotional advocates, who turn a blind eye to the real economic and societal costs of having our borders so open that we can’t screen out those who would do our citizens harm from those who simply are looking for a better way of life.
No viable solution will be able to appease all sides. And those of us who sit in the broad spectrum of the middle ground shouldn’t expect to be fully pleased either.
We should expect our politicians to compromise their ideals without compromising what’s good for our country.
” Tamara Miller for the Editorial Board
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