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We can't just say no to immigration reform page 2
Immigration--an issue in search of an answer

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Date published: 7/15/2007

By Richard Amrhine


Georgia, with its exploding immigrant population, was a hotbed of opposition to the legislation. Many Georgians are feeling overrun by immigrants and objected to a policy that would have legalized the status of millions of illegals already in the country.

But in Georgia and other big poultry states, Mexicans are the ones who do the most menial, filthy, and physically demanding jobs in the poultry processing industry. Many Georgians who opposed the legislation include those who make their livings, directly or indirectly, in a poultry-based economy. They wouldn't in a million years do the nasty jobs that immigrant labor does. But they can't stand living in the same neighborhoods or shopping in the same stores that the immigrants do. They are put off by all those Spanish speakers and their strange customs.

Do they expect Scotty to beam illegals back to their homelands at the end of the workday?

Isn't there a striking similarity to the ancestral stories of many Americans? Many came to this country penniless, but filled with hope for a better life. They worked long hours for low wages, lived in poor conditions, and saved what they could to build a better future for their families and children.

The big difference, and it is a valid one, is that most of those earlier immigrants were documented as they reached the nation's shores, rather than sneaking in illegally. But legislation to provide a path to legal residency and citizenship, to allay the fears of deportation that cause these immigrants to risk their illegal status, is voted down in Congress.

Maybe some people just don't like immigrants, legal or illegal.

Many white Americans who live in communities experiencing an influx of immigrants--Mexicans in particular--are fleeing those communities, saying they've become slums.

That sounds to me like white flight from inner cities in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, which I experienced firsthand growing up in Baltimore. In response that obvious comparison, Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, said: "To suggest this was about racism is the height of ugliness and arrogance."

How about, to some degree, the height of truth?

Now here's a point I particularly like: We have spent billions on the war in Iraq, determined to stuff our way of life down the throats of a nation full of disparate people and beliefs.

But bordering our nation to the south is a country whose residents love us so much that millions will do whatever it takes to live here.

U.S. and Mexican officials need to redouble their efforts to raise Mexico's standard of living and diversify its economy. If there were enough decent jobs and the Mexicans who flee instead wanted to live there, then they wouldn't need to come to the United States to pursue the American Dream.

To those whose letters, phone calls, and lobbying efforts defeated the immigration bill: The ball's in your court. Your proposal is eagerly awaited.

But don't bother with the same old plan for just more walls, fences, and border patrols, or for rounding up illegals for deportation. Sealing off America isn't the American way--and it doesn't work.

Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.

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