Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2004 / 12 Teves, 5764
Respect American citizen/taxpayer while providing reasonable access for immigration to this country
The new "third rail" of American politics is immigration reform. If you look back at the rhetoric of the last great wave of a hundred years ago, it was much the same. The strain on the taxpayer was not the same.
A hundred years ago, children did not go to school until they spoke English and most health care was done at home. Hospitals and doctor's offices were few and far between. There were no taxpayer social programs. Those that existed were administered by churches and other private organizations. Any government program was administered locally based on need. There was no Social Security or Medicare and no restrictions on child labor or minimum wage.
During the peak years of the early 1900's, one million immigrants entered a year on a total US population of 70,000,000 as compared to one million legal and an unknown number of illegal immigrants on a population of about 280,000,000.
When my grandmother arrived in 1903, she was asked if she had a job and transportation to that job. She had to declare the money she had and answer questions about the reason she was coming and whether she was to be a permanent resident. There were better records of her entry into this country than of most immigrants today.
Leading up to the attack on America in 2001, our immigration laws were not enforced and attempts to rectify problems were unsuccessful. There was no collective will to control immigration. Then came September 11, the world changed on that day and immigration became a National Security issue.
No viable candidate in the 2000 election had a stated immigration policy. Pat Buchanan had a policy that played into the frustration of many Americans in the areas most affected by unchecked illegal immigration, but it was an unrealistic policy and would not work in the world we live in today.
Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, visited the United States in August of 2001. His attitude then was Mexican workers should be considered migrants and the border should be completely open. He went on to suggest that the US needed young Mexican workers to feed the Social Security system.
In the War on Terror, the friendship between Mexico and America has been strained. There was less than full support of the ousting of the Taliban and very little support at the UN for the resolutions against Iraq. Their positions on our shared border have not supported the security we need for Americans in the wake of 9/11.
There is a disconnect on this issue. Immigrants who came here legally do not want special provisions for illegal immigrants. The United States "no enforcement" policy of the 1990's has left us with a problem that cannot be solved by the "ship 'em all back" mentality. Also, our government has not made it easy to identify and deport illegal immigrants culminating with the ridiculous discussion in Congress in 2002 on how many felonies is enough felonies to justify deporting an illegal immigrant. So what do we do now?
The President is signaling that he will have an immigration policy in the 2004 election. Discussions on amnesty and other issues have given new fuel to an old discussion. There has also been discussion on the use of Social Security taxes paid in by illegal immigrants on bogus Social Security numbers. None of these issues deal with the situation as it is and we cannot deal with it until we establish the ground rules.
The President is formulating a policy but it is clear that the "Na´ve Nine," as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga) calls the Democrat candidates for president, have no policy. No policy equates to the policy of the past and that just will not work anymore. Securing our borders is National Security which puts it on the top of the list of priorities of any president.
The solution is simple. English should be the legal and official language of the United States of America. We must enforce the laws currently on the books or change them, beginning with the passage of the CLEAR Act introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga). This will give local law enforcement the tools it needs to deal with illegal immigrants in local jails.
Continue the implementation of the Border Patrols plan to secure the borders. There has been marked improvement in the areas that is has been implemented and they need the resources to finish what they have started. We will never be able to have a completely secure border and that is the price we pay for liberty and living in a free society.
We need to especially focus on the requirement for a sponsor and it should be a family member that is a legal immigrant or citizen, employer or an independent party that will ensure that the person sponsored can maneuver in American culture. We should create a work program that will allow workers currently in this country that can show that they have stayed within the law (except for coming here illegally) to earn legal status through work or community service.
Social Security and Medicare must be protected by requiring that you are an American citizen or have worked and paid into the system for 40 quarters before you can draw benefits. Hospitals should be allowed to request documentation of legal status. If the person is illegal, that would not be grounds to deny service but that person would be deported upon completion of their medical care. There are many other issues to be determined regarding schooling and other social services.
The points outlined above are ambitious and if undertaken would improve the situation but would not solve it. That will take another round of reforms. The pro-immigration crowd must acknowledge the sovereignty of our borders without calling racism and the anti-immigration crowd must acknowledge progress made. The key is to respect the American citizen/taxpayer while providing reasonable access for immigration to this country.
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JWR contributor Martha Zoller is a radio talk show host in Georgia. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2004, Martha Zoller