Immigration Principle: Be Fair, Be Firm

In whatever form and whenever completed, a new immigration-reform bill hopefully will reflect more enlightened self interest and pragmatism than pure politics. But even in the polarized pit that is Washington, the odds at least favor a better outcome than the last time this subject was in the cross hairs. That was in 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act proved an exercise in bad policy (amnesty) and awful enforcement (of sanctions against businesses that knowingly hired the undocumented). Some context:

*No nation worth its sovereign salt can have a sieve for a border — even a country with a track record of taking in “huddled masses.” Nobody has an absolute “right” to your house.

*Nothing wrong with bigger, better border barriers – as long as you’re not fencing your own people in. How it looks from the other side is another matter. In the case of Mexico, which is ironically notorious for its own treatment of illegals from Central America, the perspective continues to be one that excuses chronic corruption, economic malfeasance and generic mismanagement of a country hardly resource-challenged. Stateside remittances are Mexico’s second biggest source of revenue after oil and a disincentive to get serious about deterring illegal immigration. This problem didn’t start with NAFTA.

*Ask anyone with inside insight on security, and they’ll tell you that seaport-container scenarios notwithstanding, a “dirty bomb” coming across the Mexican border amid a stream of economic immigrants is among the more viable terrorist possibilities.

*In the abstract, the U.S. economy – notably agriculture, construction and hospitality — would ultimately adjust without 11 million illegals. But it wouldn’t be painless. In the real world, with real logistics and unforgiving politics, however, it wouldn’t even be possible.

*Let’s hear it for some self-restraint on everybody’s part on agenda-driven, counterproductive buzzwords such as “amnesty” and “reward for breaking the law.” It would be neither a freebie nor a reward if there really is a significant commitment to be exacted to convert to legal status – whatever the details. In addition, the words “felons” and “criminals” only add heat – not light – to the debate.

*And to reiterate, some means of legitimizing illegals is necessary. A permanent underground population is the unacceptable alternative.

*A national I.D. card. If not now – post 9/11 immigration imbroglio – when?

*Good PR move for demonstrators to finally put away flags other than American. Not a good idea to say, in effect, “I have a right to stay where I entered illegally because I need the work, but I don’t need or want to be an American or even speak your language.”

*If the Statue of Liberty is to remain relevant, assimilation has to be more than a quaint historical footnote harkening back to the Ellis Island epoch. “Mexifornia” remains an ominous omen.

*And one more thing. Trying to convince the children of immigrants not to leave their school campus for a banner-waving rally proved an understandably touchy issue. The principals involved – at Durant and Plant City High Schools — did the right thing by making good on consequences. Ultimately, “civil disobedience” for a cause doesn’t trump the safety of kids who should be in classrooms instead of lining busy state roads.

And all those administrators who have long countenanced the loopy “Senior Skip Day” precedent only made it more difficult.

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