Let’s Get Together on Immigration Reform

June 15, 2006 | by | Topic: American History & PresidentsPrint Print

Guest Commentary

Arizona’s two U.S. senators and House members are at loggerheads on the immigration issue. They are a snapshot of the nation.

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. J.D. Hayworth want most of the nation’s 11 million illegal aliens and their 13-million family members who live in the shadows of our communities across the country in California, Arizona, Texas, and migrants all over the country, to be sent back to their countries of origin, mostly Mexico and Central and South America, where they would have to apply for re-entry to the land of the free.

Most people believe we need a better policy to protect our borders, but rounding up and kicking out 30 million people who are mostly good people, although undocumented aliens or whatever you want to call them, is unrealistic and wrong national policy.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a partner with Democrat Ted Kennedy on the immigration issue, and President Bush, seek a path to legalization and citizenship for most illegal aliens who have worked here productively and become assimilated into our society over many years.

This is where most of the country is on the immigration issue.

McCain has opposed and ridiculed the Kyl-Hayworth approach as “report and deport.” The phrase resonates.

It’s pretty stupid to believe you can force 30 million mostly good, hard-working foreign people out of our country for no better reason than the bureaucracy and politicians and nativists want them gone.

The business and agriculture community certainly disagree with the nativists and want a more sensible approach that allows hardworking foreign people who are the backbone of America’s service industry, who pick our vegetables and fruit, to become legal immigrants to our country, even if they got here against the rules. From the beginning of this country, people came here against the rules. That’s how the United States of America was built, since the 1600s.

The country’s ability to develop good immigration policy has been hijacked by nativists who have wrapped themselves in the flag after 9/11 and turned us back to the segregationist ways we rejected as a people in the 1950s. This nativist assault against the world’s honorable immigrants to America is a huge mistake that we will come to regret many years from now, because it is changing the character of our country inherited from British Pilgrims who first came to this land in the 1600s. Why should we not continue to be the home of the free and brave throughout the world?

The biggest problem we face is not illegal aliens. It is a broken federal bureaucracy and socialist, big-government, high taxation mindset of many in politics who have proved unable to control our borders or process immigrant applicants properly in a timely fashion.

My family faced the same problem in May 1956, when we swept across the Canadian border with horseracing traffic over the Peace Bridge into Erie, New York, our household goods hidden in horse vans and trunks of five different cars as we made our way to Virginia as undocumented illegal aliens from England.

My family thankfully had help from wealthy horse owners in Virginia who made sure our paperwork got processed quickly by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and we got our green cards.

But millions of people today—those applying from outside the country and foreign applicants already here—remain in limbo for months and years because the federal immigration bureaucracy is broken and inept. There is little spirit of making it a priority to bring wonderful people to our country who will help improve our way of life, because too many government bureaucrats believe it is their job to block immigrants, hose down foreigners who want to come here, lay down as many roadblocks as they can, for whatever reason.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, offered an amendment to the Senate’s immigration bill to make English our national language, which was adopted.

But the following day, senators gutted the Cornyn amendment with a measure offered by Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, that just suggested English is our common language and negated all the enforcement language that English is really the language everyone should use in government business.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, also offered an amendment to block any guest worker program granting legal status to illegal foreign entrants until the secretary of homeland security certified to the president and Congress that border security provisions in the immigration legislation are fully funded and operational. The Senate rejected Isakson’s proposal by a vote of 55-40. How is border security possible if it is not fully funded and operational, please tell me? Why does Congress want to continue sending billions of dollars to secure security and freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, but refuse to do the same to defend our own territory, our own borders?

Why?

The Isakson amendment should be adopted by Congress as law in the final immigration bill, along with the Cornyn amendment certifying English as our national language.

We should drop all the negative talk about so-called amnesty for illegals. This is nativist code language against would-be immigrants who are the very foundation of our country that has historically been a haven for good people seeking freedom and opportunity from anywhere in the world.

As the Senate decided, foreign residents who have been in our country for more than two years, regardless of their legal status, who have worked honestly and paid their taxes, should be put on a path to legal residency and citizenship so long as they continue contributing to the good of the order.

This is not amnesty. It is a way to offer opportunity to good people who contribute to our society and deserve a path to freedom, to pay tribute to good people who have made their way to our country and are contributing to a better society for us all. That is what built America from the beginning.

We need to get back to the character and spirit that built America and stop the forces who want to build a fence around our country to stop the quest of people throughout the world for freedom and opportunity. Why not let people vote with their feet, go where they want, and make the world a better place because of their productivity and family values?

George Archibald

George Archibald

George Archibald is a four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and 23-year veteran national news reporter at The Washington Times who served briefly as communications director for U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl's 2006 re-election campaign. He is also a contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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