Columns » Bob McCord

Stemming the tide

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After another vacation, our representatives and senators are now back at work in Washington with the promise that they will finally do something about the overflow of 11 million illegal immigrants slipping into this country for the past 15 years.

Arkansas felt the problem. Between 1990 and 2000, Arkansas had the fourth-fastest growth of immigrants in the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that the number of illegal immigrants in Arkansas increased from 5,000 to 27,000. Most of this growth is in Northwest Arkansas where chicken companies are operating.

These new immigrants make up 5 percent of the work force – one out of every four farm workers, one in every six cleaning workers and one in every seven construction workers. Last week in the streets of the big cities, thousands of the illegal immigrants (500,000 in Los Angeles alone) held rallies opposing any laws that might kick them out of the country. The Catholic Church helped them with their demonstrations.

While the new illegal immigrants can’t vote, the Latinos who are citizens usually vote for Republicans, which explains why the Bush administration has done almost nothing to stop the overflow. Naturally, the Democrats wish the Latinos would get on their side, and so to date they have hesitated to do anything to stop the overflow, especially with the elections coming up this November.
The president’s idea was to sort of legalize the illegal immigrants and let them stay here for a few more years, but then they would have to go home. If they came back, they would have to do it legally. The problem is that the National Immigration Forum says it is simply impossible to round up and deport 11 million people. Sens. John McCain, who would like to be president, and Edward Kennedy got together and came up with a plan that would let the immigrants work and not have to go back home. As you might think, restaurants, hotels and farmers liked their idea.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has a plan to allow illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. since January 2004 to join a temporary worker program and stay no longer than six years in three-year segments if they would pay back taxes and a $500 fee and spend at least one of the years in their home country. I have yet to read anything that fully explains it.
One person who really dislikes it is Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who was on TV with Specter Sunday. He says that when Specter attempts to reward the illegal immigrants for sneaking over the border “it’s a slap in the face of every single person who has done it the right way.”

Tancredo and many other politicians say they like the immigration bill that passed 239 to 182 Dec. 16. (Rep. Vic Snyder was the only Arkansas congressman to vote no.) Many believed it should be even tougher. A few believe it’s too tough, and they like to say that, after all, this country was created by immigrants.

But most senators, Democrats as well as Republicans, have said the bill has to be drastically changed before they will vote for it and make it a law so they started in committee Monday. Among many things the bill requires: (1) Employers must submit all Social Security numbers of every employee so as to know the legal status of the workers; (2) illegal immigration will be charged as a misdemeanor crime instead of a civil offense as it is now; (3) the hiring of more Board Patrol Agents and erecting of 700 miles of fences along the Mexican border, and (4) tougher penalties for persons making re-entry and also bringing drugs into the United States.

Naturally, businesses don’t like the bill because they resent the effort of having to report the Social Security numbers of their employees. Also, bars, restaurants, factories, contractors, farms, etc. like to employ immigrants because they will work for less money and no benefits.

As for me, I would like to see Congress pass more tough laws so that fewer sneak-in immigrants come to our country. Poor schools in small towns like we have in Arkansas have to spend time and money teaching foreign kids how to speak English. Dozens of fine colleges are accepting poor immigrants for free or reduced admissions, when they don’t do that even for poor Americans who live in next-door states. Our hospitals and emergency rooms are running over because that’s where immigrants go for help. Black Americans lose jobs because immigrants will work for less. Many of the Mexicans are coming here only to sell narcotics and raise hell, and we, especially our kids, already have far too much of both.

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