Put the guns away

One of the things that have been so astounding about the recent debates regarding immigration into this country has been the relative non-violence associated with the debates. It’s often a lit fuse when there are millions of people on the streets, demanding action, if not equal rights. Passions are high, and racism has played a large part in framing the debate.

So how does our country’s leadership respond to large numbers of people peaceably exercising their legal rights to assembly, free expression and petitioning the government for redress of grievances? They throw 6,000 unnecessary guns into the equation by sending the National Guard to the border states to “assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training,” according to President Bush’s speech Monday night.

Like the war on Iraq and the bankruptcy of Social Security, the immigration “crisis” is a managed crisis. Our nation has gone 230 years with porous borders. Yes, this is a serious problem. A comprehensive plan to solve immigration in the country must be drawn up. But, on the heels of the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last Thursday, that they expected passage of a comprehensive bill by Memorial Day, the president states he’s going to lead the cavalry by sending 6,000 troops to train the border patrol.

Why must this nation so frequently turn to guns first? One thing guns can do is change a situation that could be described as a “serious problem” to one that can be described as a “crisis.”

Don’t we have other crises in this country where 6,000 people performing two-week stints could actually perform a lasting service? They would then provide more of a service than obfuscation of real crises the administration would prefer the American people not think about—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continuing SNAFU in New Orleans, the worst floods in 70 years in New England, say.

None of this says that the president’s ideas are without merit. A guest-worker plan is worth considering as long as the “guests” have the same legal rights—base pay, medical benefits and maximum hours before overtime must be paid—as American workers. If they can be paid less, they will get hired before Americans, the very problem that needed solving in the first place.

Also, the president’s plan for tamper-proof identification is worthy of note.

“A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker,” the president said. “This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamperproof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it.”

Obviously, if only the guest workers are carrying these high-tech ID cards, illegal workers would only have to carry faked state identification cards, like a driver’s license, to get around the law. Just as obvious, a technically sophisticated national ID would circumvent the problem. This idea presents danger to people who still care about privacy.

Immigration is of interest to Nevadans. We’re ready to solve the immigration problem. And nobody had to put a gun to our head.