Righty: Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to see America overrun with hordes of unskilled immigrants who conveniently refuse to learn English. I’m not exactly keen on seeing them move into my neck of the woods and turning our downtown into a teeming barrio. But I’m realistic enough to recognize that the American economy needs all the able-bodied help it can get. Let’s be honest: we need uneducated, low-paid workers — and plenty of them — who are willing to perform the grunt-work that we overpampered Americans have grown too proud and soft to do for ourselves. Who else is going to pick our crops, stock Wal-Mart’s shelves, weed our lawns and scrub our toilets? First we need to make sure that all those illegals have a fair chance to become legal. Then we need to enact immigration laws that encourage hardworking people to enter this country and keep our economy booming.
Lefty: I’m loath to admit I agree with you on this one, Righty, but I do — for completely different reasons, naturally. America is a nation of immigrants, and we should stay true to our historic role as a welcoming beacon of opportunity and freedom from oppression. The inscription on our Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” How can we turn our backs on those huddled masses? We need to ensure that everyone who wants to start a new life in America has a right to live here. Anything else would amount to a betrayal of our national purpose. By what moral authority do we determine that some immigrants are “legal” (i.e., desirable) and others are “illegal” (i.e., undesirable)? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the color of their skin, would it?
The New Moderate:
I might be a little obtuse, but how is it that our friends on the right and left conveniently overlook the word “illegal” attached to the aforementioned immigrants? Illegal immigrants are, by definition, lawbreakers. They’ve entered the U.S. on the sly, find work on the sly, elude Uncle Sam at tax time but readily accept his generosity when they need a benefit or two. And their numbers just keep growing like some radioactive behemoth from a 1950s sci-fi flick.
That the illegals are predominantly Hispanic is almost irrelevant. The only Latino-specific issue that should concern us is the apparent reluctance of many Hispanic immigrants to learn English — along with our own feeble-minded attempts to support their Anglophobia by establishing Spanish as our unofficial second language. (See BILINGUALISM.) The New Moderate would be equally peeved if the illegals were Swedes or Hungarians who stole past the border guards and settled en masse in cities and towns across the republic, enjoying government benefits and straining our resources without contributing to the public till.
The recently proposed solutions to illegal immigration should strike any thinking moderate as outrageous and even nonsensical. Building a wall along sections of the Mexican border is a wasteful and ultimately absurd enterprise. Not only does it send a spiteful message to everyone south of the border, but it can only tempt the more resourceful outlaws to perform end-runs around our defenses.
The newly minted Bush-Kennedy gradual amnesty bill (when these two gentlemen collaborate, be very afraid!) must rank among the most shameless examples of governmental hornswoggling in American history. Formulated behind closed doors, the program essentially winks at the past transgressions of the illegals if they take a few cursory steps to legalize themselves over the next few years. (We have stiffer penalties for parking-ticket scofflaws.) The bill disguises itself as a moderate solution, yet it blatantly caters to special interests on the right and left. It serves Republicans who salivate over the prospect of low-wage workers flooding the land; it serves Democrats who covet the affections of all those brand-new Democratic voters; it totally ignores the will of the people. Our partisans ignore the will of the people at their own peril; Americans will ultimately rebel against a government that repeatedly snubs them. (Mr. Jefferson gave us permission, after all.)
So what do we propose as a moderate solution to the illegal immigration fiasco? It’s relatively simple: enforce the law. Nothing extreme about that. Impose penalties on illegal immigrants and those who shelter them. Deport all illegals with criminal records. Set term limits on “guest” workers the way we do for houseguests and congressmen. Make life considerably less inviting here for immigrants who sneak past the border guards.
Some would argue that we should sympathize with the plight of any people who want to make a better life for themselves in the U.S. We agree. Let them enter the country through legal channels, pick up a Social Security card, work and pay taxes like the rest of us. Then you can talk to us about sympathy.
Summary: Illegal immigrants flood the job market, depress wages, pay no income taxes and consume a disproportionate share of benefits. They’re harming our country, a fact our lawmakers conveniently ignore. Just as important, they’re lawbreakers and should be treated as such. The solution: simply enforce the law.