The Immigration Dilemma

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on April 28, 2010 with 1 Comment

By Jill Chapin

April 28, 2010

Most people who come to our country illegally simply want a better life for themselves and their families. They want their children to be educated, their health needs attended to, a chance at a decent job with a fair wage. But without endless resources, we cannot sustain our own citizens, much less those of the impoverished world. To how many can we offer unfettered support before we all sink to substandard lives? This may sound cold-hearted, but they are cold facts. Another cold fact is that Americans increasingly feel they are on a rudderless ship without direction or a clear sense of purpose.

The impact on our schools caused by the seemingly unstoppable enrollment of students who don’t have legal residency in this country exacerbates already overcrowded classrooms with their paucity of books, desks and teachers. Yet American students living across town who want a better education in a better school find themselves removed if their non-residency status becomes known.

Hospitals are closing because they can’t handle the increasing numbers of people who can’t afford to pay, affecting not only the indigent illegal population but poor Americans who are left without emergency care in their own country.

Lenient lawmakers who champion amnesty refuse to acknowledge that it would actually increase border crossings. People will feel empowered to disregard our laws, knowing that if they stay long enough, our resolve will dissolve, thus giving a break to all who broke our laws. They have reason to feel emboldened because after amnesty was granted in the mid-eighties, millions more have since flooded across our borders and once again we are talking amnesty. Yet those against the enforcement of our laws dismiss the “illegal” part and paint immigrants who are here illegally with the same brush as our ancestors who immigrated here without jumping the line in front of others.

There are Americans who are worse off than those who illegally cross our borders. Will there be enough infrastructure support for them if we first accommodate those who are here illegally? The Dream Act would have allowed illegal immigrants residency status in say, California, to pay in-state tuition for Berkeley, while a hard-working poor Iowan would have to pay prohibitively expensive out-of-state tuition to attend.

None of the above is intended to ratchet up the rhetoric. If anyone has an answer that makes sense, then we need to hear a solution that is based on a rational assumption that our government has a legal and moral responsibility to provide both protection and taxpayer-funded services to Americans first. All countries have the same responsibility to their citizens as well.

An example of a strategy would be to redirect law enforcement away from illegal immigrants and onto the Americans who hire them. We know who and where they are and it would eliminate the kind of racial profiling that could occur at traffic stops. It won’t completely solve the problem but it doesn’t have to; we just need to believe that we are still a nation of laws.

It’s that sense of losing control that is so anxiety-provoking about our immigration dilemma. Interestingly, it was President Obama who captured this frustration in Audacity of Hope:

“Immigrants are entering as a result of a porous border rather than any systematic government policy; Mexico’s proximity . . .suggests the possibility that border crossing cannot even be slowed, much less stopped. . . Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. In this way, the immigration debate comes to signify not a loss of jobs but a loss of sovereignty, just one more example – like September 11, avian flu, computer viruses, . . . – that America seems unable to control its own destiny.” (Italics mine)

To those who say that our immigration laws should be changed because they are antiquated, I suspect that what they really mean is we have lost control of our borders and may as well change the law to accommodate our failure.

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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