An Immigrant Writes:
Keep the doors of this country open.
Monday, April 10, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
President Reagan memorably described his “shining city on a hill” as a place that “hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Perhaps because he’d been a border state governor, Reagan understood the challenges and the opportunities presented by immigration. He believed, as I do, that we can have an immigration policy that both strengthens our borders and welcomes immigrants.
Already we hear so much talk about so many false choices. We are told that in a free society it’s not possible to have border security. We are advised that in order to secure the borders, we must deport 12 million people. Never mind that we don’t know who they are or where they are, and that it could cost up to $230 billion to do it.
I reject these false choices, and Congress should too. I salute the members of both parties in Congress who are conducting a civil, serious discussion on this issue. I urge them to agree on legislation based on a simple philosophy: control of the border . . . and compassion for the immigrant. These are the twin pillars around which we must construct a new immigration policy. They are both essential elements in our overall immigration strategy. Without both, our strategy is destined to collapse.
A stronger border also requires real solutions, not soundbites or symbolic gestures. Building a wall sounds good and a fence may do some good in certain places. But every wall can be scaled with a ladder. Brick walls and chain link fences will not stop the desires and dreams of a father who is desperate to feed his family. And making it a felony to cross the border crosses the line into pure politics. Instead, we need to bring the 12 million undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the light. I support a temporary worker program to allow American businesses to hire foreign workers when no one else will do the job. How ironic it is to hear some of the same voices who complain about the outsourcing of jobs also complain about the use of immigrant workers here in America.
To pursue a policy of compassion, Congress must attack the problem, not people. A compassionate immigration policy will fight this battle at the borders, not in our schools and not in our hospitals. Teachers, doctors and charity workers should not have to choose between helping those in need and enforcing the law. A compassionate immigration policy will acknowledge that immigrants are just like us: They’re moms and dads looking for work, wanting to provide for their kids. Any measure that punishes charities and individuals who comfort and help immigrants is not only unnecessary, but un-American.
Yes, immigration reform is a difficult issue. But it must be guided by a simple goal: compassion for the immigrant, control of the borders. Congress should not rest until it achieves both.
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