Historical accuracy needed for immigration discussion
“We’re Tiger Woods, not Paris Hilton,” writes Russell Sadler in your April 30 opinion section. For which thank God, say I; if only he had stopped with that. Unfortunately, Mr. Sadler goes on to repeat a number of increasingly irrelevant arguments in his column supporting illegal immigration. He and others of his ilk seem to be affected by a willful failure to understand the serious objections many Americans have to the rapidly rising tide of illegal aliens in our country; this is both unhelpful and rather insulting.Mr. Sadler first commits a historical error. If any illegal alien in the United States in the late 1980s did not have a chance to regularize their status through President Ronald Regan’s amnesty and family reunification program, it was probably because they were guilty of a deportable felony. Perhaps Mr. Sadler regards this as irrelevant, but I do not. Incidentally, the result of this amnesty was a tidal wave of more illegal immigration, so those who argue that an amnesty would end the problem are arguing against history.Mr. Sadler also trots out the canard that “we are all immigrants.” He is correct for most of us, including my ancestors – who were among the most reviled of immigrant groups in the 18th and 19th centuries. What he fails to mention is that the Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Chinese and others he rightly lauds very probably came to America via programs sponsored, or at least sanctioned by, our government. This is the crucial difference between the past waves of immigration and our current situation. Mr. Sadler dismisses as “bleating” the objection to illegal entry and residence; perhaps he does not realize that control of its borders is one of the vital hallmarks of a sovereign nation. Perhaps he doesn’t care that by his very entry, the illegal alien spits on the sovereignty of the United States and announces that he cares not a whit for its laws. Perhaps he doesn’t regard illegal immigration as a slap in the face to those law-abiding immigrants who waited their turn to come here. But others do, and I am among them.The difference between legal and illegal matters because the law matters; it is one of the lines dividing civilization from anarchy. And because my objection to illegal immigration is precisely the violation of the law, I have a point of agreement with Mr. Sadler. I despise the comfortable collusion he cites between big business and government, which results in illegal immigration being winked at by law enforcement. I welcomed the penalties set out in the House bill he mentions, but would have welcomed even more confiscatory fines and jail time for the corporate corsairs and boardroom bandits who use illegal immigrants to keep wages low. Secure borders are far more important to our country than Wal-Mart’s profit margin, or the survival of a lawn care company in Southern California – and we ought to start acting as though they are.There is another problem with illegal immigration to which Mr. Sadler alludes, but he doesn’t pursue it: the short-circuiting of our political process. If most immigration was legal immigration, we could have a national conversation about what level of newcomers was appropriate. We could be forthright about what we gain from immigration, and what it costs. If Mr. Sadler and others who hold his views wanted to argue for open borders and unlimited immigration, they could do so, and reap the political benefit – or punishment. Others could express different views, and the citizenry could decide. In present circumstances this is impossible. We have control neither of our borders, nor of who resides here. We are faced with large numbers of illegal aliens who think so little of our laws that they feel perfectly justified in publicly demanding a change of status to which they are not legally entitled. This must stop, and now. If it does not, we will have taken a step toward surrendering control of our politics, as well as our borders. Illegal immigration is a great challenge, and we ought to discuss it in a forthright manner, using both analysis and historical precedent, and without the slogans and slanders that increasingly obscure the realities with which we are faced. To do otherwise is a betrayal both of our forbearers – immigrant or native – and of our descendents, who will bear the consequences of the decision we take here and now.
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