2006-04-13 / View From the Middle

The Immigration Dilemma: Don't Forget About Compassion

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers

The announcement last Friday that the "compromise" immigration bill in the Senate - which was supposed to pass relatively easily - died a horrible death by a vote of 68-30, hit like a waiter tripping with a tray of champagne.

At first, the Republican-controlled Congress (both houses) stood, mouths agape, trying to figure whom to blame. Of course, the primary reaction was to put the onus on the Democrats from the first utterance of "nay." But, when they looked around after the vote it was obvious that their own party lacked neither intelligence, understanding nor patriotism. Now, we know it's a given that they're all patriotic; and, true, the factor of understanding might be a little hard to come by, in some cases, but it eventually comes around. It's that confounded intelligence factor we're not too sure of.

Good thing they didn't pass the measure. Since the reason they debated the bill so fast (something like 48 hours!) was because they wanted to start their Easter-Passover two-week holiday, it turns out they'll have some time to think it over. Yeah, it's definitely a good thing they didn't pass it!

The House had already passed their measure months ago, which, without fanfare and without a compromise, would have seen the greater amount of illegal immigrants being deported, detained and god-knows-what, short of amnesty. The House bill would also establish a 700-mile fence to be built along the Texas-Arizona-California border with Mexico, with the guarding of that border to be of foremost importance.

The Senate's bill would water the House's bill down, while adding a bunch of amendments. Primarily, there would be three provisions set: undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for more than five years would eventually become citizens if they retained jobs, passed all background checks, paid a $2,000 fine and learned English; If they lived here two years or more, they would have to go to a point of entry and apply for a temporary visa; Those who had been here less than two years would have to go home and start all over.

How absurd! All three proposals. How absurd!!

Yeah, right. As if those illegals who had been here less than two years - maybe less than two months - would surely be honest enough to tell the Immigration Service people they've been here only a short time. And, sure, they'll gladly go from, say, Chicago to the Mexican border just so they can show their honesty. Oh, and don't forget: They'll gladly come up with $2,000 out-of-pocket.

I repeat: Yeah, right!

This week we've seen demonstrations all over the country where undocumented immigrants are calling for some kind of reform of immigration laws. There is, of course, some weight to the fact that they're called illegal immigrants. This means they are here illegally. Does that mean anything to anybody?

Just because that word illegal crops up eleven million times when it comes to our visitors, doesn't mean they must be thrown out or put in jail or shot at dawn.

Hey, nobody's saying the situation is easy. Congress has a big load to carry. Really. They should never - NEVER - think about voting on such an important measure in such a short period of time. A determination to do what is right must be peppered with huge amounts of reason and, yes, compassion.

Barring an influx of terrorists or ne'er-do-goods from any border, we must think about those who came here with better intentions and have already begun raising families who might, with the proper direction, candidate themselves for better, more productive lives.

While we must think about those people, we must also stop the haphazard way we are allowing anyone access to our resources.

We should build the wall - whether it's a real wall of wood or concrete or a wall of security agents - first. Then address the problem of what to do with the eleven million who are here fraudulently - but with compassion, keeping in mind that there are those who are emigrating from their homeland properly and within the law.

It's a problem. There was some word that the bill in the Senate might not come up again because there are too many other pressing issues to be scheduled ahead of it, since they shelved it last week. But they must be impressed with the fact that it's too important to forget about. Senator Arlen Specter, who heads the committee that wrote most of the compromise bill, said he expects to resume arguments after the Easter break.

These demonstrations - from Dallas to Dubuque to N.Y. City Hall - might help, seeing as they involve literally millions of people from coast to coast.

But, for heaven's sake, will somebody tell them not to wave the flag of their home country, though? It's not going to help them become citizens if they show they have no allegiance to their new land.

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