Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My friends think I am way too liberal on immigration

Lexington Herald-Leader | 04/11/2006 | Thousands rally downtown and, of course, I've heard a lot of talk both in friends' rants and some on the buses, too.

That said, I don't actually have any trouble with a federal law that would make it a felony to be in this country illegally, per se, although I think it may very well clog our legal system, and really it's the immigration system that needs to be overhauled in general. In other words, rather than focussing on the individuals who come here, focus on the system that allows them. I don't believe people should come here illegally. I am not as conservative as some I know who would rather see them shot or put into labour camps for invading our country. But even more so, I don't think they would if they couldn't get jobs here. Will we make it a felony to hire undocumented workers? I hope so.

My main problem with people who are on the other side of this debate is there seems to be a cosensus among them that almost all Hispanics are here in this country illegally, and that all illegal immigrants are Hispanic, and that's simply untrue. There are lots of legal Hispanic immigrants, and I don't think they should suffer because of the wrongs of others. There are certain programmes (libraries have some of these)that I think are excellent for helping Hispanic immigrants adjust to this country. How do we determine who is undocumented and who is not? Do we ask to see the cards on everyone? What about the children of illegal immigrants who have been born in this country? Do we need to see birth certificates for storytime? Probably not. For essential benefits? Yes. And while I do think it is important for Hispanic immigrants to learn English as a way of bettering themselves and assimilating into their chosen country, I also think it's important to realise that this takes time, and people such as health care workers and law enforcement should strive to have Spanish speakers on staff to help prevent misunderstandings that could have life and death consequences. I think schools should strive to help Spanish-speaking students learn English however it is best to do so, which may not be just throwing them into an English-speaking classroom but instead having a certain amount of bilingual study...as long as English speakers are also learning Spanish (Spanish is a good introduction to learning another language, and children learn more quickly than, say, teenagers). They could do something akin to what the Japanese here do, have a Saturday school on home culture and language.

That's all I'm going to say on the matter for now. I know they're are lots of people who disagree with me. But I really don't think this is a problem that can be solved without rethinking the whole structure and looking at who really benefits from illegal immigration. As one of my friends said in a recent rant, the borders are as porous or closed as big business wants them to be. There's some truth to that. There are businesses that avoid paying taxes by hiring undocumented workers. There should be a way to make sure those taxes are paid, that there aren't benefits of hiring cheap labour without a real safety net, kind of like the states that have attempted to tax illegal drugs. Companies that exploit undocumented workers should be held accountable.

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