Why Don't They Come Legally? They Can't
After my last column criticizing Arizona's xenophobic immigration law, I got an avalanche of readers' comments. Most of them were angry anti-immigrant tirades, but some made important points that deserve an answer.
I won't waste your time responding to those that reek of racial prejudice (you can read them in my column's comments section at www.MiamiHerald.com.) Instead, I will try to respond to some of the most common criticisms made by intelligent, well-meaning people whose arguments can't be dismissed as coming from the lunatic fringe.
Denise, who describes herself as a "white Anglo who has lived in
"My question to you is, Why is it so awful for the citizens of
Well, Denise, let me try. There are four major reasons why I take issue with the premise behind your questions.
First, there would be nothing wrong with demanding that immigrants come to
The U.S. labor market demands up to 500,000 low-skilled workers a year, while the current U.S. immigration system allows for only 5,000 permanent visas for that category, according to the
"There is no real line for unskilled workers," says
It's somewhat easier to immigrate legally if you have close family members who are U.S. citizens, but often not by much. According to the latest
The U.S. government is now processing 1992 applications of Mexican adult children of U.S. citizens, and 1987 applications of Filipino brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
"Many people think we have good laws and bad people who are breaking them," says
Second, deporting up to 10 million undocumented residents would be incredibly costly and impossible to carry out unless we turn this country into a police state. For national security and law enforcement reasons, it would be much better to know who they are, where they live, and to subject them to a series of steps -- learning English and paying taxes among them -- to regularize their status.
Third, I don't like to use the word 'illegals' as a noun, because it's aimed at dehumanizing what for the most part are good, hard-working people. Yes, they broke the rules. But U.S. citizens who drive through a red light also break the rules -- in fact, causing much more potential harm -- and that shouldn't turn them into "illegal" human beings.
Fourth, I don't think you should be overly alarmed by the fact that many Hispanic immigrants don't speak English. They may not, but their children will. And if their children end up being bilingual, so much the better. In an increasingly competitive global economy,
In conclusion, Denise, we have a dysfunctional immigration system. Employers are hiring undocumented immigrants to do jobs Americans won't do, while the U.S. government provides these immigrants with no realistic chance to get legal visas. Perhaps you and I will agree that it's a perverse system that needs comprehensive reform.
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