On immigration reform, don't let the messenger taint the message

February 11, 2010

Well, who says you can't teach an old dog new (dirty) tricks. It seems The Sun has taken a tactic straight from the playbook of the Republican Party: use the tainted messenger to taint the message. By pointing out that former Congressman Tom Tancredo has a record of insensitive and harsh behavior ("Tea and insensitivity," Feb. 10) does not mean that one should not consider illegal immigration to be a problem or that those who want enforcement of laws are racist. In fact, many of us who want illegal immigration laws to be strictly enforced have our nation's interest and cohesiveness in mind. Most of us are in fact, descendants of immigrants, and some of us are legal immigrants who waited for years, labored to learn the English language, obeyed the law and came here legally. Many of us do not see strict enforcement of immigration laws as a simple matter of fairness and respect for the laws of this nation.

There are other aspects of illegal immigration to consider. Illegal immigration burdens already over-burdened social programs. The state of California is an excellent example of the cost of supporting at taxpayer expense those who are not here legally and cannot seek avenues that citizens can when aid is needed. Nefarious employers will hire illegal immigrants at lower than market labor rates to increase their bottom lines while there are millions of unemployed citizens who cannot find work. This practice also drives down the cost of labor, which means that if you do find a job, you won't get a fair wage when an employer has other options that are cheaper, despite being illegal. This has a negative impact on the standard of living for all citizens.

Illegal immigrants who do work send their money home, which drains our recession-worn economy of money that could be spent here buying goods and services from American businesses. Illegal immigrants tend to network and look out for one another and will often house unacceptable amounts of people in private homes, pooling rent, so they can continue to work at below market value. Homeowners in these areas also see a dramatic drop in their property values at a time when homes are risky investments as it is..

One of the laws that you are first made aware of when going through the legal procedures of becoming a naturalized citizen is fluency in English and a working knowledge upon entry. Learning English is vital to the assimilation process. When you have large segments of the population not speaking the prevailing language, a nation can become fractionated, and when that happens, social and economic differences become extremely problematic. What makes America great is that it is a melting pot, with the operative word being "melting." Millions of very different ingredients, blending together to create an end product that is unique. If groups are determined to adhere to their native language, refusing to learn the prevailing language, or if commerce accommodates other languages, making the need for learning the prevailing language unnecessary, we become pluralistic, and we are a "we" no more.

Speaking for myself, I welcome anyone coming to this country who wants to make a better life for him or herself but does it legally, like so many others have done before. I do, however, wish immigration laws would be strictly enforced. I say "wish" because neither party seems to have the courage to take this issue on in a manner that is fair or beneficial to the common good. Both parties, once again cater to a select interest. Republicans cater to commerce and will not push for strict enforcement because business loves cheap labor, and the Democrats harbor secret desires of making all illegal immigrants legal to garner votes. Both parties are out of touch, and unfortunately, on this issue, the voices that are being heard are of those like Mr. Tancredo. It is unfortunate that only the fringe are granted audience and the message is being depicted in the same light as the character of the messenger. This serves no good at all and will allow a major problem facing this country to continue to be unaddressed.

Robert Joseph Lake, Baltimore

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