A Cry for Immigration Reform

jenny erikson
Jenny Erikson
Photo by Kristen Bons

I can't turn on the news without hearing someone talking about immigration to the United States. Television, radio, or the web -- everyone is obsessed with immigration (both legal and illegal) from Mexico to the US.

It probably has something to do with the strict new law passed last week in Arizona regarding illegal immigration.


According to The New York Times:

It requires police officers, "when practicable," to detain people they reasonably suspect are in the country without authorization and to verify their status with federal officials, unless doing so would hinder an investigation or emergency medical treatment.

It also makes it a state crime -- a misdemeanor -- to not carry immigration papers. In addition, it allows people to sue local government or agencies if they believe federal or state immigration law is not being enforced.

The problem with this new law is that it doesn't confront the real problem with illegal immigration: The need for reform. It's a medicine that's attempting to cure a symptom, but not the disease itself. And given its broad interpretation, it doesn't even seem to come with a prescribed dosage. What may be "reasonable suspicion" to one police officer might be "racism" to another.

In addition, it puts local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of being required to enforce what should be a federal issue, while at the same time risking being sued by human rights violation groups. In other words, it puts cops in Arizona between a rock and a hard place.

I understand the intent behind the law -- to crack down on illegal immigration. But this is not the way to do it. Much like health care, our immigration process needs a major overhaul.

Generally speaking, it's those on the left, with their desire for ever-expanding redistribution of wealth programs (socialized health care, Social Security, welfare, etc.), that favor an open border. In contrast, the right espouses personal freedom and responsibility while holding a much stricter view toward immigration.

As a card-carrying member of the right (figuratively speaking), I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of us have no problem with immigration. It's illegal immigration that we don't like. Even I advocate building a fence. But that's only one step, albeit an important step for keeping out the drug lords and the kidnappers.

But what about those people seeking a better life in America? Those who want to work, speak English, raise families, and contribute to their communities? Currently, not many are able to do so legally -- because of government regulation and restriction.

In 1924, in the wake of WWI patriotism, President Harding imposed strict quotas on immigration to the United States. Like most government programs, it began as a way to help and protect American citizens. And like most government programs, it has morphed over time to limit and restrict personal freedoms and opportunities for growth and prosperity.

Our country was founded and built by immigrants, and I personally believe that the limitations on the number of potential Americans that may enter our country legally should be removed. My immigration policy may be summed up as such: Keep the bad guys out and let the good guys in.

What about the third group of immigrants coming into our country? This group (and I have no idea how large it is) wants into the United States to take advantage of our plethora of social welfare programs. Allowing these people into our country and onto the public dole is simply unsustainable. Eventually everyone runs out of other people's money, including the United States government. How can we differentiate between those immigrants seeking a new and better life, and those who simply want a handout?

Seems like an easy solution to me. Allow immigrants in, but don't allow them to register for welfare programs. That should separate the wheat from the chaff pretty effectively.

This is just one potential solution to a messy problem in the United States right now. I'm sure that there are many other workable solutions, but this new law in Arizona isn't one of them.

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