Sunday, March 24, 2013

Congressman's Post Reinforces Stereotypes About Immigrants

The March 22nd issue of the Orange County Register contains a piece by Rep. Lou Barletta about the debate on immigration. He talks about the murder committed by an illegal immigrant against a law-abiding citizen; the immigrant turned out to have been arrested more than half a dozen times. This, of course, is a miscarrage of justice. Anybody who immigrates here for the purpose of committing other crimes should be sentenced to the maximum possible sentence upon conviction and then deported to their home country.

But what Barletta wrongly implies is that all immigrants are like this individual. We are a nation of immigrants. Most of our forefathers came here for the purpose of escaping tyranny and for creating a better life for themselves and their families. We didn't have any laws regarding immigration for our first 100 years; we had open borders throughout colonial times. The Native American tribes who were here before us had a policy of open borders, or we would not be here today. And most immigrants today come here not for the purpose of committing crimes like the person Barletta describes but for getting jobs, starting businesses, and providing for their families.

This is not an advocacy for open borders, but for common sense -- letting people in who wish to work hard and play by the rules and imprison and deporting those who decide to come here for the purpose of committing other crimes. Barletta's piece does nothing but create a climate of fear for Latinos by encouraging profiling, which is the last thing we need in this country given the reports of racial profiling by certain big-city police departments here in this country.

This country was founded on the notion that all people around the world -- not just ourselves -- were created equal. As such, this country was created to be a place of refuge for people fleeing from war, famine, and tyranny. The problem with the present situation is that there are 11 million people who are in a state of legal limbo -- unable to come out in the open or return to their home countries. That was never a situation which our founding fathers envisioned when they founded this country.

Personally, I am more worried about a government that is out of control and that is engaging in massive police state powers than I am about people who are here to create better lives for themselves and their families. Barletta says that the costs of comprehensive immigration reform are prohibitive. But I submit that the cost of creating a police state like Barletta seems to advocate and deporting 11 million people are greater. Neither Barletta nor any other advocates of mass deportation have been able to come up with any figures for how many judges, prisons, policemen, or border guards we would need to properly identify and deport 11 million people. It is simply more cost-effective to bring these people into society and ask them to pay taxes and play by our rules like everyone else. And there is a further complication -- all children of of immigrants are considered US citizens under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. To engage in mass deportations like Bartella advocates would create greater harm by breaking apart families and creating unequal treatment for US citizens under the law.

We all agree that we should secure our borders -- although given the ongoing austerity measures, that will be a challenge. And nobody is arguing that we should create a temporary amnesty like Ronald Reagan did back in 1986. That measure, which gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants while doing nothing to address the long-term problems, simply amounted to kicking the can down the road, which is a typical American solution to debates that can't be resolved at the present time. But given the ongoing budget cuts, trying to create a police state to deport all 11 million of them is simply a pipe dream. And it is more akin to the tactics of Communist China than it is of our country.

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