Some perspective about immigration
December 23, 2009
At the immigration rally last week in Glenwood Springs, a speaker urged reform so that illegal aliens can “come out of the shadows of illegality.” Anyone who has entered the U.S. without documentation chose to live in the shadows by violating this nation’s laws upon entrance. We can sympathize with the conditions that forced such a choice, but it was freely made.
The same speaker reminded those opposed to amnesty that we had immigrant parents or grandparents. Yes, we did, but they came here legally at a time when the door to immigration was wide open because America in the late 19th and early 20th century was an industrializing nation in need of cheap labor, including that of children. There was abundant opportunity but also a harsh system with no safety net. The immigrants through their labor gave back to their new homeland without being a drain on its public resources, such as they were then.
Now we are a post-industrial nation struggling with crises in health care and education, with systems from banking to criminal justice badly in need of reform. Public resources in this valley could have accommodated multiple needs of the relatively modest number of legal immigrant families, but are not set up to serve the undocumented, and their offspring, who account for most of the immigrants. The problem is that the size of the labor force required when the economy is not in recession far exceeds the number of legal immigrants. The solution is not amnesty for law-breakers, but a documented guest worker program for laborers who come here, without children, for a specified and monitored period of time.
Advocates of amnesty argue that the illegals took great risks to come here simply to improve their lives. But people all over the world wait for many years to come here legally; who is looking out for their rights? If we were to admit people strictly on the basis of need, we would open our doors to those fleeing famine or genocide in Africa rather than the poverty which is endemic south of our border.
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