Close the immigrant gap

The world is changing in many ways, particularly in this country. It seems somehow the sins of our past are coming home.

The civil disobedience with regard to same-sex marriages we’ve seen these past few weeks goes directly back to the fact that the average person in this country is ready to stand by and watch normal people being treated as though they are something less. It is easy to say, “Not my problem,” and to ignore other people’s troubles. In this instance, as in most, the devil will receive his due.

The immigrant issue is another place where our country’s desire to turn a blind eye to human misery has come home to haunt us.

We’ve gone too long watching illegal aliens work for less than a livable wage because it’s not our problem. We’ve watched people suffer without healthcare and live in fear because we are financially conflicted. We’ve allowed crime to fester in our neighborhoods because if we are to cure a disease instead of treating symptoms, we would have to make some choices as a country that nobody wants to make.

Our conflict is pretty easy to discern. Big business makes big money by having a ready pool of uneducated, unskilled laborers at hand to clean the toilets, harvest the fields and mow the lawns. Our economy is utterly dependent upon the illegal alien trade.

And we, the average legal Americans, suffer the consequences, morally, financially and socially. It’s as we mentioned in last week’s cover story, “The Migration Policy Institute claimed in February 2001 that immigrants send $6 to $8 billion to Mexico every year. There are also the social costs: The Federation for Immigration Reform claims illegal immigrants cost this country $32.74 billion for such things as education, food stamps, prisons and Social Security, while paying only $12.6 billion in taxes.”

There are but three solutions to the issue. We can, as George W. Bush has proposed, make sweeping reforms which will give temporary work visas to uncounted hopeful immigrants and make it easier to gain citizenship. Of course, it would allow the continued exploitation of people who come across the United States’ borders seeking a better life. This idea seems to say we should accept the continued social costs caused by crime and poverty and accept the continued negative impacts on our schools because exploitation is good for business.

A second answer is just as brutal and just as distasteful. Close the borders to all but a tiny, sustainable stream of legal immigrants. Do whatever it takes to secure the United States’ boundaries. Spend a billion dollars on whatever kind of high-tech fence it will take to keep people out or alert the border patrol when somebody crosses and get serious about catching and deporting lawbreakers.

The only other real solution seems unfathomable. Develop some real reforms that will bestow some kind of human rights upon anyone who lives within our borders. Treat illegal aliens like human beings. Accept that they are part of our culture and give them some semblance of dignity and standing. Change the laws to punish businesses that take advantage of the disadvantaged.

Illegal immigration is a problem for all Americans. It should be solved by bestowing dignity upon those human beings who have the same inalienable rights as the rest of us.