Vail Valley Voices: Fly in the melting pot
August 16, 2010
2010 America is in the throes of formulating new immigration policies.
The event that caused the federal government to focus on the issue at this time was the passage of a new state law that severely criminalizes illegal immigration.
The U.S. government has sued to bar an Arizona law, and a federal court has already blocked some of the most controversial elements of the legislation.
Opponents of the Arizona initiative say that the law would be racially discriminatory against Hispanics and people of color. Police officers would be able to check the identification of anyone stopped for an alleged violation or crime.
Further, the law already has caused many illegals to relocate or consider relocation to other states or back to Mexico.
Opponents believe that illegal aliens provide necessary manpower for less desirable jobs in this country, such as farming and other menial and labor-intensive activities. The exportation of illegal immigrants would therefore have a serious impact on small businesses, which depend on these workers.
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Proponents of stronger immigration laws complain that illegal aliens are a drain on our resources. Most illegals, proponents say, do not pay taxes and yet they rely upon services that are funded by taxes such as education and medical care. In effect, U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing people who are in the country illegally.
Regarding a proposed blanket amnesty program that has been discussed, proponents of the Arizona legislation believe it would be unfair to all those who have applied for citizenship and are waiting patiently. Why, the proponents ask, should illegal immigrants move to the front of the citizenship line?
Frankly, both opponents and proponents of enforcement of immigration laws have strong arguments.
Certainly, families who emigrated to the United States many years ago, obey our laws, pay taxes and have children born in this country should receive special consideration.
But why should the United States be a repository for unhappy Mexicans? Why should U.S.taxpayers finance criminals who sneak across the border?
Unfortunately, the most vocal leaders of both sides of immigration resort to rhetoric that has made the issue more contentious.
Opponents say that proponents are racists. And proponents say opponents want to grant amnesty to 5 million or 10 million people now living illegally in the United States.
The impending election has served to make the debate even more unpleasant.
There are several facts that make this controversy so complicated.
One is the discrimination issue. Some people would rather not have several million more Hispanics living legally in this country. These people should not have any standing in the debate. There’s no place for bigots at the negotiating table.
Others are concerned that legalization of Hispanics who are not authorized to be here would dramatically impact the political landscape of the country.
If many Hispanics receive amnesty and are allowed to vote, they will become a powerful bloc that would likely lean left.
Those concerned with this might say it would not be fair to give illegal immigrants the opportunity to change our political culture.
On the other hand, immigrants built this country. Most of the people in the United States have ancestors who came from other countries. The success of our nation is based upon this melting pot society.
To deny new immigration may change our nation forever. So what’s the solution?
The venom being expressed by both sides is going to make real progress difficult. For instance, immigration bashing is a political tactic that conservatives will employ leading up to the election in November.
Liberals, especially legal Hispanics, want to build a massive coalition. They are supported by threats from the Mexican government, which is taking advantage of the United States and shouldn’t have any say in this matter.
It’s insanity to think that the United States could deport or somehow chase out 5 million or 10 million people.
It’s similarly insane to believe that Obama and Congress will be able to wave a wand and magically make all illegals legal.
Rather, a rational, well-thought-out compromise is in order.
First and foremost, all troublemakers, felons and undesirables need to be rooted out and sent back to Mexico. Those illegals who want to stay in the United States must register, have jobs, pay taxes and speak English. These requirements will no doubt disqualify many of them.
But it’s insanity for U.S. taxpayers to be burdened by illegal immigrants who have no way to care for themselves and/or any desire to adopt our customs.
And then there are those illegals who have put down roots in this country. Obviously, illegal immigrants who marry citizens should become citizens.
And those with children born in the United States should receive consideration. This should not be applicable to extended family members, just to parents and siblings. Certainly, we must be humanitarians in this effort.
But increasing welfare is not something this country can afford at this time. In any case, the inflow of illegals into the United States should be stopped immediately so the problem does not worsen.
I hope cooler and compromising heads ultimately prevail.
Sal Bommarito is a novelist and frequent visitor to Vail over the past 20 years.