By C. Catania
Most of America takes for granted that they may drive to their local ice cream parlor, buy an ice cream cone, and proceed to take a walk in the town square. However, in the mid-1980s, that would have constituted a crime in Carmel, California. It took the publicity and action of Mayor Clint Eastwood to overturn a town ordinance that forbade the purchase of takeout in the downtown area. In doing so, Mayor Eastwood, through his actions, unknowingly and quite figuratively, placed himself in the middle of a national controversy over ideology that would take place over two decades later. The controversy: Illegal immigration. The ideologies: Will we work to better the laws of America, or simply diminish them by ignoring those in which we disagree?
Illegal immigration is not a new problem. In fact, two days before the election of superstar Clint Eastwood as mayor of Carmel, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which gave amnesty to illegal immigrants who had lived and worked in America, illegally, for over four years, into law. So, keeping that in mind, one must wonder why we are revisiting the same topic twenty three years later. One must also wonder why there are now an estimated twelve million illegal immigrants in the United States. The immigration reform supported by President Reagan did not work. It is clear. It is simple. It failed.
Today, the best and brightest in Washington are again puzzled. How will America stop this phenomenon? Amnesty does not work; President Reagan proved that. But, aside from its failure, there is yet another reason amnesty is the wrong course of action. When faced with a law that was ineffective, the people of Carmel did not break the law. Instead, through the time-honored American principle of voting, they changed the law, appointing a new mayor by which to do it. Simply put, the law is the law.
Today, as in the 1980s, there are those advocating anarchy, as amnesty in any form is indeed the beginning of anarchy. If we now allow illegal immigrants to stay in America in spite of their disregard for our laws and legal system, no law will be worth the ink that it is written in. Regardless of illegal immigrants’ intentions or reasoning, The United States of America is the greatest country in the world because of the laws and traditions by which it is governed. We must not look at this issue with our emotions, but only with logic, paying close attention to the precedence in which it sets. Immigrants wish to come to America to enjoy the freedoms provided here, but in exchange for those very same freedoms, citizens must accept the laws of the land, something that illegal immigrants have refused to do.
To better appreciate the laws of which illegal immigrants knowingly break, we must only look as far as a legal immigrant. The process of immigrating to America legally could take years and tens of thousands of dollars. In spite of that, there are more legal applicants than The United States can handle through immigration services. By granting illegal immigrants amnesty, America is effectively punishing every honest applicant that has been waiting for approval. Also, it is sending a signal to all future immigrants that crossing the border illegally is acceptable and carries no consequence.
We have seen from past failures that amnesty simply does not work. There are Congressmen who say that the only way to secure America’s borders is by building a fence. This alone also does not work. Instead, a fence along the border costs millions in taxpayer dollars, only to allow illegal immigrants to go over, under, around, or cut through the fence. After all, a fence is only a small deterrent. The only solution to illegal immigration is an exponentially tougher border patrol, including the stationing of The National Guard along the fence.
Aside from prevention, there is another problem. The legal immigration process is too difficult, too expensive, and too time consuming for applicants. America must consolidate and retrofit the entire immigration system. If it was easier to legally immigrate to America, many illegal aliens would not be forced, due to lack of money, time, or knowledge of immigration law, to cross the border illegally. Transformation of the immigration process must be introduced with better prevention methods along the borders, as neither policy alone will stem the flow of illegal immigrants.
To view the full magnitude of the issue of illegal immigration, we must look no further than our overburdened social programs. Supporters of illegal immigration say that illegal aliens pay more than their share through Social Security taxes which they will never collect on. They also cite the sales tax that illegal immigrants pay during the course of living in America as payment for American services that they use. What those supporters fail to account for is illegal immigrants’ free access to American healthcare and education. The expense of putting one child through our public education system, now around $10,000 per year per pupil, costs more over twelve years than an illegal immigrant will pay in taxes in a lifetime. That is not even considering the cost of their health care, those illegally collecting welfare, or families that put more than one child through public education.
Supporters of amnesty also cite that the jobs that the twelve million illegal immigrants are employed in would go unfilled. After all, no American would work on the fields picking lettuce, making beds in hotels, or washing dishes for the pay that illegal immigrants accept. However, there are many places in America that illegal immigrants are not found in abundance, and yet produce is picked, beds are made, and dishes are washed. Even still, twelve million workers are a lot of workers to replace. Nevertheless, with almost double digit unemployment in America, there has never been a better time make the transition.
Were all twelve million illegal immigrants deported tomorrow, many of their jobs would become completely mechanized, for which operators, supervisors, and mechanics would be needed. Deportation would allow businesses to increase productivity through modern mechanical advances and in turn, transform millions of low paid, unskilled workers into moderately well paid tradesmen after training. The training of these men and women would create yet more positions needed to be filled as somebody would be needed to teach the new laborers how to operate the new technologies. Effectively, overhauling our system of manual labor would boost the incomes of low wage workers through better opportunities.
Deportation is key, however. It is the issue nobody wants to talk about. Can we deport twelve million people? No, we cannot. There is an alternative. Ask illegal immigrants to leave. It sounds ludicrous, but it is perfectly sane with the right incentive. Those who leave on their own will be able to apply for American citizenship and will wait in line as all immigrants do under a reformed immigration system. For those that do not, Congress is the answer. If Congress were to pass a bill with stiff repercussions (for instance, a $100,000 fine for each illegal immigrant employed) for companies hiring illegal immigrants, illegal aliens would decrease rapidly because money saved on cheap labor would be outweighed by the possibility of a fine. All companies would then make a much more concerted effort to check an applicant’s employment status, leaving illegal immigrants without the means to survive. Is it possible? Yes. Would Congress ever enact such a bill while those companies employing illegal offenders are still major campaign contributors? No, not as it now stands. It is time to apply pressure on Congress to pass real immigration reform. To do this, we need a new Congress… a Congress whose accountability lies with the people who are gracious enough to elect them. Remember, this is OUR government, not theirs!
America sits at yet another crossroad. It is the responsibility of every American to obey the law. Consequently, it is also every American’s responsibility to protect the laws and foundations of our great nation. When America’s laws are broken, it is up to the government to assure its citizens that justice is being served. There is no justice in allowing people who broke the law to benefit from our great society, when others who have followed the rules are still trapped in bureaucratic red tape. America must stand by its laws, without which, we would live in anarchy.
We cannot stay the course, following the failures brought upon by an ineffective Congress and President Reagan in the 1980s. Amnesty did not work then and it will not work now. The United States of America is a nation of laws and it is our task as responsible citizens to be sure that there is immigration reform and prevention to control future attacks of illegal immigration. We must vow to change the system and remake the law to fit our current needs. Amnesty is not the answer. Not now, not ever.
Chuck Catania is a contributing member of The Arkansas Patriot.