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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Immigrants welcome when legal

    When I visited New York City 10 years ago, two of my favorite stops were the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and the port-of-entry museum on Ellis Island. Like many, I knew Emma Lazarus’ famous poem engraved at the base of the towering statue. But I also knew that those “”huddled masses”” came into the country through Ellis Island, a legal port of entry.

    The outrage over recent immigration bills in Congress – most notably the bill passed in the House that outlaws illegal immigrants’ presence in the U.S. – seems to go against the very ideal of fairness and the quest for the “”American dream”” that those protesting the bills intend to propagate.

    If fairness is the issue, then one should be advocating a fairer implementation of immigration laws. We should work to enforce the existing laws, rather than create new ones. To give citizenship to those who are here illegally is exactly the opposite of fair.

    First, a system that grants illegal immigrants already in the U.S. temporary status on the way to citizenship, such as the one proposed by Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy, would give preference to those who can cross the northern and southern borders. A person from Turkey cannot easily enter into the country illegally, whereas it is much easier (though albeit still very dangerous) to cross the Mexican border.

    Second, the U.S. only grants naturalization to a certain number of people each year. According to the Customs and Immigration Service, 1.2 million naturalization applications were pending or approved in fiscal year 2004.

    If we give citizenship to illegal immigrants living in the U.S. – as proposed by the guest-worker program that would give citizenship to 400,000 illegal immigrants per year – that would translate to nearly all of the 536,176 approved naturalization applications in 2004. That unfairly minimizes the number of legally applying people who can become citizens.

    The primary goal of immigrating to another area is to provide a better life for one’s family, to attain the “”American dream.”” If people follow the rules, the “”better life”” can be even better. There is only so much that an illegal immigrant can do in terms of jobs. In the long run, it would seem better to go through the procedure and be able to get vastly superior jobs, leading to better housing and educational opportunities.

    But let’s say for the sake of argument that the House-passed bill fails in the Senate, and the McCain-Kennedy bill passes into law. Once the immigrants become citizens, businesses will have new economic concerns.

    I don’t own a business that hires illegal immigrants, but it would seem that the logical reason for doing so is to cut costs. According to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., businesses that hire illegal immigrants “”avoid paying workers’ compensation, health benefits, Social Security and a whole slew of labor law requirements.””

    Those wanting to help illegal immigrants by giving them legal status will not cure the problem in the long run. Businesses that need inexpensive labor and can’t afford to pay required labor benefits will continue to hire illegally. If a company must double or triple payment to minimum wage, economics would dictate that without a new source of money, it would have to cut between 50 and 66 percent of its workers.

    Thus, those who would give illegal immigrants amnesty are not giving them a better life – in some cases, they are taking it away.

    And these jobs, though often thought to be the jobs Americans won’t do, are overwhelmingly dominated by native-born Americans, according to the center’s study. Some of the occupations “”most affected by immigration include maids, construction workers, dishwashers, janitors, painters, cabbies, groundskeepers and meat/poultry workers.””

    In other words, most if not all of the jobs currently done by illegal immigrants could be – and are – done by those in the country legally.

    Illegal immigration is illegal, no matter how you look at it. To reward illegal immigrants with citizenship is to reward people for criminal behavior. In a country predicated on the rule of law, that is extremely hypocritical.

    The problem is not that current laws can’t be enforced, but that they aren’t. We need to enforce existing legislation, holding accountable those who violate it.

    Increasing fines for or criminalizing the hiring of illegal immigrants is a solid step. Increasing the number of Border Patrol officers would assist with the patchy control we have at our nation’s ports of entry and elsewhere along the border. As for illegal immigrants already in the country, current laws would logistically call for gradual deportation. They can then apply to immigrate – this time, legally.

    After all, that is what the Statue of Liberty is all about – following the process to come to America and enjoy the “”American dream.””

    Janne Perona is a criminal justice administration sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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