Sunday, May 20, 2007

JMO - Immigration

I haven't read much about the new Immigration Bill in Congress, I'll watch to see what happens in the House and the conference between the Senate and the House, and then presented to the President. We all have opinions on immigration, from the extreme position of those wanting all illegal immigrants arrested and deported to those wanting amnesty to all illegal immigrant residing the country, working or not. And the hardest position is in between finding something that will work, but the reality is that with 12 million illegal immigrants, there is no real solution.

The middle is a no-win situation, but it's the best for the longterm solution of this country, and that's the thing we must remember, it's about this nation and its people. And before I spout my opinion which will be the last time anywhere, I need to provide some background so you know where I came from, since we're all immigrants, including Native Americans. They only predated Europeans by a few thousand years, but they're really a mixture of Asian and South Pacific ancestry, but mostly the former.

Three of my grandparents were first generation immigrants. On my father's side, his parents came from England around 1910, he first to establish a home and business in Valley Falls, Kansas, and then sending home for his wife. They spent their entire life there in that home and town, rarely leaving. My mother's father came from Germany around 1908 to join the US Army and go back to fight the Kaiser in World War I. He was that angry with events there.

After the war he settled in southern Idaho, eventually becoming the Postmaster for Boise, Idaho. Before that he married a young socialite girl from Soda Springs, Idaho, the daughter of a prominent farming family there. The married and spent their entire life there in one home. My maternal grandmother can trace her history back to the 1840's when her family (Shufeldt) emigrated from Germany to Ohio and then Idaho to become dry-land potato farmers.

So that's my history. And here I sit, half German and half English, second generation American. So in a way I do have a say on the immigration debate, just like every American has one. And notice I say American, because it's about being a citizen and our Constitution. And thus I have two views, my deeply held personal one and my public one. I'll give you the latter since it's about what's best for everyone. But first a preface.

The issue of immigration is about two things. What's illegal and the front door. Before any discussion can begin I have to preface with the fact I refer to illegal immigrants, not legal immigrants. Big difference. Illegal is illegal, no matter how you define it, it's still as Lou Dobbs says, it's about being illegally in this country. I don't have any problems with legal immigrants because it's about the front door.

And that's my major issue in the immigration debate. It's about the front door, the legal avenues to come into this country and become a citizen, or if that's not your interest, a visitor for various reasons. And the solution isn't simple with 12 million illegal immigrants and millions others overstaying or misusing visas. And that's the conundrum. Any solution is expensive and hurts a lot of people.

My personal view is the unfortunate truth that throughout our history we've had a front door to immigrate to this country. It's still good and works, and something we should return to with enforcement by the federal agencies. And until the 1980's we've had an open border with Canada and Mexico, and while we can return to those day, it's time we enforced the border. The trouble of the US-Mexico border is overwhelming, but unless we gain control of it, we will never win.

But I'll take a different turn to say the real answer doesn't lie here, although we can do a better job of enforcing the laws on illegal immigrants, but with the home countries of the immigrants. We need to make coming here the lessor of evils, which means making other countries better economically and socially. Lose the incentive to come here by making the incentive to stay there. I've rarely seen that solution enter the discussion.

If the money had been spent on international aid and promoting the improvements in other Western Hemisphere countries, not just overthrowing governments, what would be different. Why not ask for them to improve their countries and we'll consider aid and not discriminate against immigrants from their country? Just thinking out loud, but it's time we had some serious talks with Mexico and not just about cheap labor and no environmental protections for industry to pollute their country.

Anyway, before we get into the mechanics of what to do with all these people, I think we need to address the root problems of immigration too, why they come here. It's a push-pull thing. We have here and they don't have there. Let's solve that first along with border security, and then address those living here with humane answers than political garbage that we know won't work and only excerbate the issue.

And I'll add that maybe this isn't a problem we can solve in one sweep of legislation but in increments. Many experts espouse this view but Congress and politicians don't because it can't be easily sold or agreed to with what's the priorities to start with on legislation. That to me is easy.

First, secure the border. You don't need a fence but good enforcement with people and other means than a physical border. Second, it's about employers who employee illegal immigrants, denying them rights and denying other immigrants and American from jobs. Third, it's about defining a process to citizenship, starting with the home countries. And lastly, it's about finding ways to bring those here into the light with honor.

To do this we have to also clean up and secure all our laws and agencies. We need to get everyone on the same page, from local communities and states to the federal agencies. We need to agree who's to do what and when, and make the federal agencies do their job with illegal immigrants. And Congress needs to find some of that Iraq money for these agencies for people, resources, and security.

What are the alternatives? Arguing while more come? Pass bad laws no one likes? Or find real answers? Do we want to face this again in 2015 when there are 25 million illegal immigrants?