Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 08, 2006

Allow guest workers, not blanket amnesty

As a lawyer with an immigration law practice, I am watching with interest the intensified national debate concerning illegal immigration ("Demand and Supply," April 2). And the trouble with the immigration debate is that everyone is right.

First, let me say that entering the United States legally is probably the single best indicator of an immigrant's likelihood to be a good citizen and obey U.S. laws.

Second, I think that the United States must secure its borders, using whatever means necessary, including the armed forces, border fences and even properly trained citizen volunteers.

As far as I am concerned, the probability that we will soon have tens of millions of illegal immigrants in this country, coupled with their as-of-now peaceful parades waving the Mexican flag (and not the U.S. flag), is the definition of a national security problem.

But we must wake up and realize that, demographically, the American population is aging, requiring different services and going into different occupations that generally require greater technical proficiency, and that we face chronic labor shortages in certain occupations.

These shortages in unskilled labor will remain no matter what wage rate is offered to kitchen workers, gardeners, maids, crab pickers and other semi-skilled workers.

Thus, on the one hand, the United States should have absolute protection against illegal entrants to the country.

On the other hand, we must create a realistic guest-worker program that will greatly increase the number of temporary work visas.

But this guest-worker program should not lead to permanent residence (and citizenship), especially for those who have illegally entered the United States.

If an individual violated U.S. laws in entering the country, he or she should remain without the prospect of permanent residency or citizenship.

Passing a law that allows individuals any form of forgiveness for their illegal entry would only encourage more lawlessness.

Howard B. Hoffman

Rockville

Touch-screen voting imperils basic rights

I take strong issue with The Sun's editorial "Annapolis whirlwind" (April 4), which supports the status quo of electronic voting machines in Maryland.

The touch-screen machines offer no paper trail and have a history of malfunctions and security breaches.

A bill passed by the House of Delegates calls for a one-year lease of optical-scan machines, which would read voting cards cast at each precinct.

In the event of a recount, the cards could be hand-counted. This would act as a hard-copy check of the machines, and provide the ability to audit their performance.

The House bill was passed unanimously ("House passes paper ballot bill," March 10).

Citizen activists are now working hard to get a companion bill adopted by the state Senate with the identical language (to avoid a conference committee and get the bill to the governor's desk).

But if no bill is passed, the touch-screen voting machines will continue to be used, and they offer no ability to conduct a recount and little safeguard of the most important right of citizens: the right to cast a ballot, and have that ballot counted as it was cast.

Christopher Bush

Catonsville

The writer is a member of TrueVote Maryland.

Locked door evokes Ehrlich's sad legacy

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s legacy could be summed up by The Sun's article "15 rushed bills set up legal clash" (April 4).

The article described the myriad bills passed by the state legislature as the close of session approached.

It also had an unfortunate twist: While both floors of the legislature were hard at work, the door to the governor's legislative office was locked in an apparent attempt to prevent the legislature from sustaining an override on any bill the governor might veto.

It has been a long time since I learned "How a Bill Becomes a Law." But I am pretty sure that the elected legislature's bill was never supposed to be greeted with a "closed for business" sign from the elected executive branch.

Mr. Ehrlich's locked door is symbolic of his first term as our governor. He rode into office with promise and popularity and vowed to work with the legislature to make a better Maryland.

But with massive tuition increases in the University System of Maryland, new fees to offset "tax cuts," and his refusal to allow his administration to talk to certain members of the press, Mr. Ehrlich has shut and locked the door on the average Marylander.

And locking the door when you don't want to deal with your responsibilities is something we should expect from children, not our governor.

Eric Swalwell

Baltimore

Electric rates rise in non-BGE homes

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