Thursday, April 7

The Minutemen and Immigration Reform

Much has been made in recent days of the so-called "Minutemen", a group of volunteers who plan to spend a month playing lookout for illegal immigrants along the Arizona border. The issue has the ACLU up in arms, so much so that it has decided to provide it's own set of observers to watch the watchers and document any potential civil rights abuses. If the function of the Minutemen is to simply watch the border and report what they see to overworked and overtaxed Federal officials, I see little problem with the effort. However, if they are to attempt to apprehend illegals on their own, the issue of their qualifications, experience with law enforcement techniques, as well as legal authorization to detain and hold anyone on public property is a serious concern.

Clearly there are tangible national security interests to border security, as we do seem to be continually bleeding along our southern border. But activities such as those by the Minutemen are unlikely to stanch that wound. Many people are clearly outraged that the Federal Government seems completely unable to address this problem, letting these "illegals" enter at will - but few people ever seem to ask the question. Why can't these people enter legally? Do they have no respect for our laws, or is something else at work?

The answer may reside with the U.S. State Dept. Visas offered by the State Dept to immigrants from various nations are limited by a quota. Quotas of this type began to first be established in 1882 when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, as the scare of the "Yellow Menace" began to rise and the need for railroad workers (who were primarily Chinese) began to wane. In the 1920's there was the "Red Scare" and in the 1940's the internment of Japanese Americans. In the 21st century we like to consider ourselves more 'enlightened' than we were in the past, yet these types of quotas remain.

So again we return to the question, besides National Security concerns, why are we so desperate to keep certain people out while allow near open-ended immigration from Europe and Asia, especially since most illegal immigrants are frequently Europeans who have overstayed their visas? And more importantly, how do we fix this?

I submit that a we can go a large way toward resolving our problems with illegal immigration by reforming and correcting inadequacies that currently exist in our legal immigration system. We need to either fix or abandon the current "quota" system. The President has suggested a "Guest-Worker" program to allow migrant workers entry into the U.S. when they have a specific job waiting for them. I support measures of this type, because the vast majority of immigrants from Central America are coming to the U.S. to find work. Rather than simply employing the revolving door of "catch and release" at the border, I suggest that we crack down on the employers of illegal migrant workers and offer them a choice. Either these employers will abide by the law, pay their employees the legal minimum wage, and get involved with the State department to help find and screen migrant workers who do not present a security risk - or else be fined severely and risk losing their business. If we are going to expect immigrants to abide by the law, we need to expect American companies who employ them to do exactly the same.

From the latest information I've heard, In California, immigrant workers provide over $100 Billion to the economy compared to using $6 Billion in state services. Understandably, many residents of the border states do not appreciate their tax dollars being spent to support people who have evaded the law - however what they often ignore is the savings on locally produced goods and products they are benefiting from, particularly in agriculture, as a result of undocumented workers who are being paid under the table. If the law were being applied consistently across the board, these workers would and should become "documented" and paid competitive wages as well as have access to healthcare. (The demand for these undocumented workers might even decrease if wages were made more attractive to native U.S. citizens who are trying to make ends-meet.) If this were the case, much of the state services they now utilize would be reduced because people who pay taxes and have health-care don't have to use the county emergency room as their regular doctor. Mandatory Government expenditures on Medicare (and the need for supporting tax revenue) would go down, while prices for some goods might rise, but so would the pool of people with funds to purchase those products.

Clearly we still need to secure our borders. We need to complete fixing the fence as was begun under the Clinton Administration. We need to recruit and train more members of the Border Patrol and better equip them with security and surveillance gear. Further, we need to close the revolving door - fingerprinting and taking pictures of all illegal entrants, then placing them on a Tipoff/No Entry List so that they are restricted from access to legal immigration for several years. If they are caught a second time, they should be held in custody for ever increasing periods before being deported. We should make those who defy our laws pay a penalty, but similarly we should reward those who do follow the rules and are only seeking a better life for themselves while contributing to the best of their ability to America society and growth.


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