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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Time To Resolve Immigration Issue

George Wenschhof

The late John F. Kennedy wrote a book prior to becoming president entitled "Profiles in Courage", in which he focused on the acts of eight U.S. Senators who he felt had shown courage of conviction in the face of pressure from political parties and constituents.

An excerpt from the book, which is appropriate when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration and the need for Congress to act, goes as follows; "The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people – faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment – faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor and ultimately recognize right."

For too long, elected members of Congress have failed to act on many critical issues, concerned instead on poll numbers, political party majorities, and the likelihood of reelection.

The current debate of a budget reduction plan is yet another example as both Republicans and Democrats argue specifics of a four or six trillion reduction of the national debt over the next ten years. Sadly, both plans being discussed still add five to seven trillion to the nations debt according to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

This follows three continuing resolution extensions for the fiscal year 2011 budget. Unfortunately, the latest agreement to reduce the current budget by 38 billion actually will save 353 million according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis.

Over eleven million illegal immigrants are estimated to currently reside in the United States. A staggering number and one that begs the question as to what is being done.

The lack of a federal comprehensive plan on immigration reform has only exacerbated the problem.

Previous bipartisan attempts to legislate a solution to the immigration problem in the United States have failed, such as the effort in 2007, prior to the 2008 presidential election.

That effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Az.) resulted in the "Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007."

The bill addressed strengthening U.S. borders and provided a convoluted manner for an undocumented immigrant to obtain citizenship.

It was the proposed so-called pathway to citizenship which contributed to the failure of the bill to pass. Asking a undocumented immigrant to pay a fine, return to their country and then pay thousands to be able to return, was simply a non-starter.

The areas which need to be addressed in regard to illegal immigration are not difficult to identify. An update of the current immigration procedures, securing borders, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers and providing a reasonable pathway to citizenship is what is needed.

The billion dollar border fence boondoggle was a failure from the start. The effort to stop illegal immigration along the U.S./Mexico border by building a high tech fence ended five years after it began under the George W. Bush administration.

The building of a fence hardly was fitting for the country which promotes it's Statue of Liberty as a symbol of freedom and opportunity.

However, increasing border patrol manpower and utilizing technology to monitor borders is certainly a sensible and practical solution.

Even with the efforts of zealots like Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Araipo, rounding up over eleven million undocumented immigrants will not happen.

Instead, providing a reasonable pathway to citizenship should be passed by Congress. One which will lead to taxes being collected that will help reduce the national debt.

A penalty is certainly warranted, but it needs to both entice and punish a undocumented immigrant.

Requiring two thousand hours of community service over a two-three year period should be considered. A fine will never encourage someone to identify themselves. Whereas, community service would serve the two fold purpose of providing a reasonable pathway for one to earn their citizenship while also providing needed service to the many communities across the country.

Those who did not opt for the community service program within a six month period from introduction of the program would not be eligible.

Of course, a undocumented immigrant who has a criminal record would not qualify and still face incarceration and deportation.

The creation of a universal identification card is long overdo in the United States. MSNBC political commentator Chris Matthews has been calling for it for some time as a means to crack down on employers hiring undocumented workers.

Which is the other area that demands attention from Congress. Employers who hire undocumented workers should face serious fines along with suspension or loss of license, when appropriate.

Agreement on, updating immigration policy and procedures, securing borders, creating a universal identification card, severely penalizing employers who hire undocumented workers and providing a reasonable pathway to citizenship can be reached by Congress.

There has never been a better time to tackle the issues surrounding immigration than the present.

Immigration reform can be accomplished in the United States and voters should demand action from members of Congress.


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