Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Stop the Flood by Turning on the Faucet.

I don't usually write about politics on my blog, but since I don't have time to write the post that is dancing around on my cerebral cortex, begging to be set free, I thought I'd share a slightly revised version of my Op-Ed column from a couple of weeks ago. It's still timely, maybe more so today than when it was first published. I invite your comments (all views are welcome).

Much of the nation was witness to demonstrations and a million-worker staged walkout this week by people opposed to a new immigration reform act making its way through the Senate.

Facets of the act that would make being an illegal immigrant a felony generated most of the opposition. Even the part of the act that you would expect immigrants to support, an amnesty program that would allow long-time residents to stay in the United States and eventually gain citizenship, drew protests because of a poison pill built into the bill. It requires illegal immigrants to pay a fine and back taxes as part of the process of qualifying for eventual citizenship.

I grew up and spent most of my life near the Mexican border. It leaks. Does it leak like a sieve? No, it leaks like a broken dam. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, almost 4 million people crossed into the U.S. illegally in 2002 - a year after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The panic that followed 9/11 is what's really behind the current immigration crises. People are asking, and rightly so, if we can't stop 4 million people from crossing the border to find a better life how can we possibly stop one person from crossing the border seeking to do us harm?

The truth is, by trying to do both we can't do either. The best laws written with the best intent will never stop the flood of people who want to provide food, clothing, shelter, and a better life for themselves and their families from seeking those things. Criminalizing immigration will make criminals of honest people, not help us sort out the dishonest people. We can't stop the flow, but we can control it.

The first step controlling the flood is to open our borders to Mexicans and Central Americans who seek to enter our country in search of work. Make it easy for them to become legal immigrants and to pass through legal border crossings (where we already have a massive security apparatus in place to protect us from terrorists), and that's where they will go. They are coming anyway, so we're foolish not to channel them through a screening process that separates the honest, hard workers from undesirable and dangerous criminals.

Please don't buy into the myth that illegal aliens are stealing jobs from Americans. Nationwide unemployment continues to be low, despite the presence of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. Of the unemployed, many are seeking jobs at a professional skill level requiring training and education beyond that of most illegal immigrants. If you are seeking a career as a busboy, migrant farm worker, or hot tar roofer, you may have to work alongside an illegal immigrant, but I seriously doubt you will find doors closed to you because of illegal immigrants.

A person wanting a better life - how sad is it that a grown man with four children thinks leaving his family thousands of miles behind to work as a busboy is a better life - would much rather pass through a legal border crossing, along well policed roadways, where he is safe from bandits and dehydration, than risk his life crossing miles of inhospitable desert only to possibly face arrest and deportation. Once we've channeled the people simply seeking the American dream back onto the roadways, it will be much easier to spot the bad guys crossing the desert.

Right now, spotting a terrorist crossing the desert is like trying to find a single drop of water as it crosses Niagara Falls. Let's not waste our time, or tax dollars, on something we already know will fail.

Mark Pettus,
Tuesday, May 02, 2006

12 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Moni, Anonymous Kirsten, Blogger Lady M, Anonymous Andy, Blogger Amie Stuart, Blogger Adam Hurtubise, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Blog Intro, Anonymous HY, Blogger Mark Pettus,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 7:28 PM Blogger Moni said...

I've got to disagree with parts of your revised article. You failed to mention the astronomical bind illegals are putting on an already strained health care and school systems. Each year illegals are treated in our hospitals and illegally attend our schools without paying a dime. Who foots the bill? The taxpayers do.

Well that's easy you say, just make the naturalization process less rigid, so they become tax paying citizens; not a silver bullet sollution. Why would that not serve only to add a mass of less than minimum wage workers unable to pay for health care to the U.S. population? Again, we are faced with the same crisis. Should we revamp a health care system especially for illegals who have become U.S. citizens? Good luck, we couldn't even do that for our existing U.S. citizens.

So, we'll look at it from the point of naturalized citizens formerly illegals: Why should we not buy into the "so called" myth that illegals take our jobs? If they become legal why should they want to keep the same manual labor jobs, why would they not take full advantage of training programs offered for more technical jobs? Again, a certain amount of tech jobs and an increased number of people wanting those jobs. Everybody wants a piece of the American pie, but there's only so much pie. Double the trouble, we've also lost blue collar jobs to Mexico. Ask any unemployed textile or furniture factory worker who wasn't fortunate enough take advantage of a trade program how they feel. Ask a 50 year old ex-mill worker who's job outsourced to Mexico how he feels about working at Mickey "D's". He's too young to be illigable for Medicare and his low salary won't afford him health inusrance. He's working there because even if he learned a new tech trade, he'd have to leave the only home he's ever known to work. That's sad too.
Sorry I'm focusing on the health care issue, but most hospitals in the U.S. more times than not, operate in the red. Therein lies the biggest drain on our resources, in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against immigrants coming to the U.S. in search of a better life. It's a process, others have gone through the necessary steps to become citizens. Ellis Island was full of them(although often subjected to abuses). They obeyed the law. My problem is with people wanting to stay illegally, or be made citizens with the a mighty pen signing a giant waiver; a free pass, mocking those who've gone through the process. There is no quick fix, and you're correct about the fact that in our attempts to stop illegals and terrorists, we've done neither.

It took time for the situation to get this bad and it will take time for it to be remedied. Here is some interesting reading on how we might fix the problem. http://www.alipac.us/article1111-thread-1-0.html

I think you're brilliant, I really do, but let's just agree to disagree on this, shall we? ;)

at 8:59 PM Anonymous Kirsten said...

The problem with criminalizing ilegal immigrants is that they're, um, already illegal. It's like saying that if we pass a law making murder even more illegal than it is, now, it will somehow help us prosecute murderers.

We need to secure the border. Then, when we're controlling who gets in, we can figure out a humane way to manage the millions who are already here.

Without securing the border first, any kindness we show essentially rewards behavior we want to discourage.

I don't see any other answer.

Although as I posted in my blog, the WSJ did a piece on Friday on the birthrate in Mexico. They say it has currently dropped to US levels (slightly over 2 people per family). If that's true, this problem may resolve itself within a generation. Wouldn't that be something.

at 10:05 PM Blogger Lady M said...

OK. Here to put my foot in my mouth.

My hubby is Mexican - so bear in mind that I have familial relations involved in this opinion.

I think that it would be near impossible or probable for an American Citizen to just walk into any other country and demand or take a job.

I think if Mexico or any other country wants their citizens to be able to come to America to work, etc. -then the laws should be a two way street. Americans should be able to go there and work just like here.

I think also - we need to realize that the United States is like a huge pot.

Eventually it will be filled to overflowing and crowded.

Someone has to stop it before it spills over.

Reciprocation of laws and immigrants would benefit all countries.

But we need to close our borders.

If someone is here working illegally - then YES! They should pay their back taxes in order to become legal. ABSOLUTELY!

I pay taxes - why should someone who is not a citizen get the same rights as me - FOR FREE? Oh hell no!

And yes - the system has been strained. People who don't pay taxes - yet take money - no matter how small - continues to strain the system. No matter if they are illegal or not.

I don't think that everything about the bill is correct or great...

BUT... I will say that if someone wants to come to this country - live here, work here, use the health care, legal, educational, welfare systems - then by goodness gracious THEY SHOULD BECOME CITIZENS. Period. End of statement.

It's like someone who comes to room at your house but doesn't want to pay boarding costs.

They just want to live on your couch - watch your television - use your phone - eat your food - drink your water - visit your doctor - have you watch their kids - play your games - drive on your streets, using your car - use the electricity and utilities... ALL WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT.

Is that fair?

I think not.

I don't think people should be jailed for it - they should simply be put back across the border - where they can apply legally for proper entry... And where they will pay... Just like I do - to the system that they want to take from.

Simply put - I agree with stopping a free flowing immigration and believe that we need to tighten up securities and entries.

I believe we need to make the system more easily navigable - but at the same time - we need to put our foot down and say "ENOUGH!" Like a stern parent.

Ahhh well... should I put the other shoe in my mouth now? LOL!

Just my opinions folks... And everyone is entitled to their opinions - without rebuke - feel free to discuss it - just don't attack personally - ok?

at 5:14 AM Anonymous Andy said...

Another slice of intelligence and rationality from across the water, Mark. Thanks for this, it was an excellent read. x

at 10:03 AM Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I guess my question is, if we criminalize them, do they go to jail?

If that's the case the law seems rather band-aid-ish! I mean send them to jail where our tax dollars give them....medical care, an education and 3 squares a day? Meaning, they'd still be a drain?

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

And FWIW I agree w/you and Lady M. Both well thought out arguments to a huge quandry!

at 12:13 PM Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...

This is a common-sense solution to a major-league problem, Mark.

The one part where I disagree is over back taxes. Taxes are a fact of life and everyone who works here should have to pay them.

But the rest is right on the money.

Many people seem to have forgotten that we're a nation of immigrants, more so than any other nation on earth, and most of those immigrants came here in ways that are no longer legal, if they were legal then.

The whole bill is about those illegal immigrants who break the rules to come here, but follow the rules once they are here, and those illegal immigrants should be given a chance.

Great column.

at 6:23 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

great article, mark.

as far as taxes go...

i used to...um, ah...know of a place where illegals were needed to get the crops in.

they had fake paperwork. they paid taxes just like everybody else. they paid into social security -- money they will never get back.

at 8:40 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Gee Anne, I was only going to post one response, and you went and stole it.

I thank you all for your responses. Clearly you've thought about this issue, and I appreciate your thougtful responses.

Someday soon I'm going to have to write about another lost cause the government seems hell-bent on fighting for - the war on drugs. :)

at 2:02 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

sorry, mark. :D

the war on drugs. never thought i'd live to see the day when pot wasn't legal.

at 9:50 PM Blogger Blog Intro said...

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at 1:43 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...


Man, what a pal you are. I can't tell you how happy I am to be singled out for this incredible offer.

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