June 19, 2007

Illegal Immigration, With a Focus on "Illegal"

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Given that there are so many close contests ranging from local county elections to presidential elections, people have started to realize that every voice counts. With such a narrow margin for victory so often, imagine how adding 12 million people to the United States could change the dynamics of our country! Even if they couldn’t vote, those 12 million would definitely influence their friends in the voting electorate, thus influencing politics on the local level in House and Senate elections. America faces this impending problem of a massive demographic change, and all because of the crisis resulting from the 12 million illegal immigrants in our country, whose numbers grow constantly every passing day.

Now first of all, I have no problem with any demographic change that occurs from immigrants who legally move here. Quite frankly, I hate it when people who staunchly oppose illegal immigration while embracing legal immigration get labeled as racists and bigots. America needs real debate and solutions on this matter, not more name-calling. So although I embrace those who arrive here legally, I do not want to deal with the consequences of such a major demographic shift simply because Congress does not understand the meaning of the word “illegal.” Everyone in America, from lifelong citizens to naturalized citizens to legal immigrants, risks having their voices drowned out by wave after wave of illegal immigrants.

Luckily, the Senate wisely recognized the same problems I mentioned here, and they successfully blocked today’s immigration reform from going through. The blocked legislation gave illegal immigrants the ability to stay in America with the new Z-visas. Z-visas, while allowing illegal immigrants to legally remain in America for the rest of their lives, do not include the right to vote, so Congress also had to throw in a path to citizenship as well, while offering hardly enough in terms of border security. As a result, Republicans revolted against their own president, preventing the bill’s passage in the Senate. Now President Bush has tried to sweeten the deal, reviving the bill with an additional $4.4 billion for border security, but few senators seem to be taking the bait.

One of the most telling signs of the problems with this legislation lies in a key group of senators. These senators from both sides of the aisle resided in Congress back in 1986 and voted for legislation on immigration reform back then. The 1986 law, while granting amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, would also improve border enforcement and crack down on employment of illegals. Unfortunately, the latter part did not kick in. Many of the Senators who voted for immigration reform in 1986 and its promises now hear the same echoing promises in this bill today. This time, however, they have resolved not to make the same mistake again.

No one can blame them, either. Back in 1986, 3 million illegal immigrants existed in our country. Now, 12 million illegal immigrants exist, 4 times as many as in 1986. If this proposed reform does not work, will 48 million illegals live here by 2028? America has had a difficult time dealing with the 12 million already here. The failures of 1986 gave us a clear warning, and if we do not heed it, the consequences will be even worse. America has to hold absolute confidence in the ability of this legislation to enforce our borders and laws. Given the risks we face, will throwing in some extra billions of dollars reassure everybody, or does Congress need to start from scratch and approach this with a new attitude rather than a new source of funds?

Now supporters of this legislation, especially Sen. John McCain, are focusing on our desperate need to get a bill passed on immigration. Without passing any legislation, America will essentially grant de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants, as McCain argues. McCain is right to state that America should not accept the status quo. At the very least, the status quo does not reward illegal immigrants by granting a way to stay here legally and additionally providing a path to citizenship. Regardless of whether or not it qualifies as amnesty, this reform rewards illegals. Without a better guarantee that strong enforcement shall more than offset the incentive for illegals to keep flocking into America, these rewards for illegals shall only damage our country and magnify the problem.

When the very first attempt at immigration reform appeared in Bush’s second term, large protests swept across the nation. While some moderate legal immigrants tried to distance themselves from the protests, they simply did not have the power to make their voices of reason heard in our society. Unfortunately, this could prove to be only the tip of the iceberg. If America does not decisively solve the problems facing us, these protests could eventually devolve into riots and general lawlessness resulting from our immigration problems. Don’t believe me? Then ask France.