DAVID ROSMAN: Immigration reform package neither helpful nor humanitarian

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | 2:31 p.m. CDT

Late Friday evening, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of comprehensive immigration reform. This came after the initial package was rejected by tea party Republicans.

The newest version will destroy President Obama’s “Dream Act,” potentially deporting about three-quarters-of-a-million immigrants who currently hold work permits.

This all comes as we approach the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was designed to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States under certain conditions.

According to the American Immigration Council: “This initiative, announced on June 15, 2012, offers a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.”

As the president has said many times, these children, men and women only know the United States as home. They are, at least on the surface, Americans.

This country has had problems with immigration since its founding. John Adams’ 1798 Alien and Sedition Act required that an immigrant have 14 years of residency prior to gaining citizenship. It also allowed for the deportation of “dangerous” immigrants.

1819 saw the first comprehensive federal laws concerning immigration. 1864 legislation permitted the hiring of foreign contract labor. By 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese until 1892 and barred Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens.

Over the years, this list included Irish, Catholics, Jews, Japanese and those of color.

Fast forward to 1986, and Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act gave amnesty for many illegal aliens while providing sanctions for employers hiring illegals. In 1989 we gave special standing to “non-immigrant” registered nurses who had lived in the U.S. for at least three years.

Today it is children from Central and South America. The tea party activists are calling it an “invasion.” It appears they do not see the humanitarian issues involved. They just want to blame the Obama administration.

The “just deport them” attitude of the conservative GOP movement is neither helpful nor humanitarian. They are not caring about the children, but, using war metaphors, claim there is something sinister about the recent movement of children across thousands of miles to find a better and safer home in the United States.

Isn’t that the reason for the immigration movements since the settlers in Plymouth?

The House ultra-conservative GOP is claiming victory in the immigration reform race. It is not. The bill they proposed simply does away with any reasonable attempt through our legal system for children to find hope for a future without the threat of violence and poverty.

What I find most disturbing is the attempt to militarize the border by adding $35 million to reimburse states for deploying National Guard troops, such as Texas’ Gov. Perry did last month.

The building of fences and walls, the addition of the military and our southern border look no different than 1950s Berlin or modern-day Israel. But, as we have seen over the years, walls do not keep people out (or in), and there will always be a resourceful few who can find the holes.

A real comprehensive plan discusses what will be done with the almost 12 million undocumented individuals living and working in the United States now. (By the way, that is down by about 1 million since 2007.)

Many of the adults are working, paying taxes, supporting our economy and doing the jobs that Americans find repugnant. It will cost us a lot more than $650 million to identify and deal with the men, women and children, provide detention centers — that no one wants in their backyard — and return them to their countries of origin.

“Just kick them out” is not an answer. It is a reaction to the influx of new and younger immigrants traveling to the U.S.

The 17 percent increase in juvenile illegal immigrants alone is a humanitarian crisis, and we need more than thrown-together-at-the-last-minute legislation to fix the problems.

We need a comprehensive package.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.

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Ellis Smith August 6, 2014 | 5:23 p.m.

So what SPECIFICALLY is that policy to be?

The United States historically and currently has a different method for establishing citizenship at birth than most civilized countries. Our system uses place of birth, whereas the other system is by the citizenship of the parent (typically the father).

Our system made VERY good sense when we were attempting to fill a largely empty land with citizens, because if your parents came here and never got around to becoming naturalized U. S. citizens, YOU, by virtue of having been born here, became a domestic citizen at birth.

A well-educated couple, English-speaking, came here from Greece as legal aliens, took teaching jobs, resided here for years, owned a home, paid all applicable taxes, and had two children. They educated the children here (even through University of Illinois; PhD for their son). Then the couple went home to Greece.

They had no intention of ever seeking American citizenship to begin with. All they wanted was to have their children born American citizens and be educated here. What they did was 100% legal.

Under Greek law both children held duel citizenship, but not under our law, which doesn't allow that. The girl, grown to womanhood, also decided to move to Greece, where, under their law she had ALWAYS been a Greek citizen. She married a guy who had the Coca-Cola franchise for Greece, but that's another story. The boy remained here and eventually became a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He married my mother's sister.

It would be less confusing if we switched systems; also, it might discourage legal or illegal foreign nationals entering this country solely for the purpose of creating children who are automatically U. S. citizens (by place of birth).

You surely know about this, but perhaps your readers do not.

Note that in the above situation the couple performed a useful service (education) and paid all required taxes. They couldn't vote, but I doubt that bothered them.

One last point: IF certain special circumstances were NOT applied to some foreign nationals trained in the areas of health care and engineering, we literally would NOT have enough of our native born citizens to fill those fields. It's a good thing the federal government understands that, because it's a problem!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 7, 2014 | 6:02 a.m.


Sixth paragraph of my post above, the word obviously should be "dual" and not "duel," but that could qualify as a genuine "Freudian slip," because in a real sense the differing concepts (place of birth versus according to a parent's citizenship) ARE duling with each other.

About health care and engineering, isn't it strange with this continual domestic whining about lack of "good jobs" that we must encourage non-nationals to fill certain occupations? These aren't minimum wage jobs! Recently one speaker has said, not entirely in jest, that at every medical or engineering graduation ceremony in this country all foreign graduates should be handed both their diploma AND a "fast track" application for U.S. citizenship.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates August 7, 2014 | 9:12 a.m.

Ellis: Have you noticed that a large number, if not a majority, of professors in the engineering department at MU seem to be foreign?

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates August 7, 2014 | 9:23 a.m.

Yep, its those dang heartless Republicans again. I don't suppose it matters that this recent surge is a consequence of not enforcing our laws and/or protecting our border.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 7, 2014 | 11:05 a.m.

Never mind that the monthly average of deportees is higher under Obama than Bush the Younger...

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 7, 2014 | 11:11 a.m.

@ Skip Yates:

Your posts. First, engineering faculty with foreign-sounding last names are endemic at engineering schools across the United States. But we need to be careful, because some of them were born American citizens. This is also somewhat true for mathematics profs as well.

For some years we had a well-known and popular mathematics prof at MS&T whose name was Dickran Erkiletian. Sounds mighty foreign! Second generation American (family came here from one of the Baltic states).

Our family has had copyright to a popular textbook (four editions) whose principal author was named Constantine Alexopoulos. Well THERE'S a foreigner if I ever saw one! No, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois (of Greek parents).

As for your other comment, this is at least the SECOND time Rosman has brought up this business of the children WITHOUT pointing out the root cause of why those children ended up here: some ruthless banana republics, whose human rights records are some of the world's worst. Guatemala in particular has been long cited for abuses of its citizens. How will Rosman fix THAT? I've been to Guatelala. Paradise it ain't!

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates August 8, 2014 | 3:11 p.m.

@Ellis: Yes, I should've mentioned many of those professors ARE Americans... was sort of thinking the family names is indicative on the family stress of hard work and study, seemingly becoming absent in America. Common Core comes to mind in thinking about the Berkeley math professor Marina Ratner's comments on common core math. Most students I knew that entered engineering at MU from one of the local high schools had to take remedial math.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 8, 2014 | 8:58 p.m.

@ Skip Yates:

Engineering is a bit different from medical school (physicians) or law school in at least TWO ways:

1- Unlike medical school or law school, a student does NOT need (in this country) to go past a BS degree to get a good job and make decent lifetime money. I am an example of that.

On the other hand, that engineer (unless he/she moves into more general management*) will probably not make as much money over the LIFETIME of his/her practice as a physician or many attorneys. I have NO problem with that! One reason why I don't is that achieving a medical degree or law degree requires more years and money (including possibly piling up large student loan debt) than the typical engineer with his/her BS in engineering. In my opinion this is a good trade-off.

There are probably more engineering graduates whose parents had NO connection with engineering than there are for physicians or lawyers whose parents had no connection with medicine or law.

In summary (and this is what I tell high school kids):

1- Engineeering is an honorable and useful profession, and the public agrees with that.

2- Engineers tend to have good lifetime employment prospects and make good money, and in this country they don't have to spend as many years in college to achieve the necessary degree status, as do physicians or attorneys - which is VERY good if a student only has limited funds for higher education.

3- In other words, we don't pretend to be the world's top choice as an occupation, but we ARE a good chice.

*-Among MS&T grads we have a former president of General Motors and a CEO from Sprint, who then briefly became president of UM System. The latter might still be president except that his wife contracted cancer and he resigned in order to take care of her.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 9, 2014 | 8:11 a.m.

Also @ Skip:

The word in the final paragraph of my prior post should obviously be "choice." BTW I beleive that the professions of medicine, law and engineering should be respected - in spite of all those "lawyer jokes."

(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 9, 2014 | 6:51 p.m.

Gentlemen ~ I find it interesting that neither of you are addressing the issue brought up in the column, the lack of a comprehensive immigration legislation. I care more about what we will do with those who have been here since they were brought by or sent by their parents, have lived here for decades and have gone to college or served in the military with distinction. Why not "fast track" these men and women to citizenship?

As to the discussion concerning those "foreign born" professors at MS&T or MU, I agree with Mr. Smith. What exactly is an American name? What does an American look like? Sound like? There are counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas where the primary language is still Spanish, yet have been citizens of the U.S. for generations. German is still spoken in Wisconsin and Chicago. As Mr. Smith indicates, though the name may not be Anglicized does not mean that a person was born outside of the U.S. or is not a citizen.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 10, 2014 | 9:10 a.m.


Please explain how we can achieve comprehensive immigration reform but at the same time conveniently overlook the matter of who and by what means someone IS a United States citizen. That's a pretty neat trick! I don't think even YOU can pull it off. :)

Mein Gott! Speaking of which mein Grossmutter came to America during the last mass migration before WWI and until after WWII. She was atypical in that she didn't fit into either the country(-ies) of origin of that migration nor could she have been classified either educationally or economically as a member of the "huddled masses."

A provision of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the so-called Mexican War, was that all subsequent laws passed in what is now the state of New Mexico must be published in both English and Spanish, and that's still done. Of course a problem at that time was that many native born Hispanics in New Mexico could not READ either English or Spanish, but that's another issue.*

Educated Americans, schooled in our history, understand that the surname "Smith" can signify an "alteration" of all sorts of original family names, and that the name "Smith" is most definitely not RACE specific. :)

Again, Rosman, either address the entire issue or don't address it at all.

*- At one time I was seriously contemplating retiring in New Mexico, as have several former business associates. Northern New Mexico has it's share of retired folks from materials science and engineering. If you want to live well in Santa Fe, it most definitely pays to be financially well off.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 10, 2014 | 10:41 a.m.

I failed to note that I entirely agree with Rosman regarding the business of surnames, and who or what is an American.

Rosman, you don't need to drive or fly to Wisconsin - unless that's your wish - to hear German spoken. I'm NOT trying to sharpshoot you, but simply pointing out that if one knows where to look, one does not need to travel far to hear many "foreign" languages spoken. (There's a church about 90 miles from here where one weekly service is held entirely in German, and the pews are far from empty. I can swear to that.)

Here we have "Little Saigon." Those folks (the initial arrivals) are now largely naturalized citizens, but UNLIKE THE SITIATION YOU CITE, THEY WERE ALL BROUGHT HERE LEGALLY, and were welcomed by Iowans (there are always going to be some exceptions). Check the Des Moines metro (population ~600,000) white pages for surnames beginning with the letter "N." :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 10, 2014 | 9:32 p.m.

This will be my final post - for now. (I'm leaving for Missouri tomorrow morning on business.) I have searched the rules governing READER COMMENTS several times and find NO rule stating that any of us when commenting must stick strictly to what you initially said in a column.

If that bothers you, you are going to experience a lot of future bother.

"If you can't stand the heat, it's time to get out of the kitchen." - Harry S. Truman (a noted and plain speaking Missourian)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates August 11, 2014 | 10:07 p.m.

David, you are absolutely correct. I made no comments on your general commentary. Frankly, your columns are nothing new; between you, Gene, George and Rose, I could almost write your, and their pieces for them. You are all block solid in your political endeavor and initiative. So, you were ignored as I took this opportunity to chat with Ellis, whom I knew would comment. For Ellis, will besorry to see you go, I think I'm not far behind. I miss the only counterpart, the good Marine Colonel. I wonder if he is still alive?

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates August 11, 2014 | 10:09 p.m.

David, you are absolutely correct. I made no comments on your general commentary. Frankly, your columns are nothing new; between you, Gene, George and Rose, I could almost write your, and their pieces for them. You are all block solid in your political endeavor and initiative. So, you were ignored as I took this opportunity to chat with Ellis, whom I knew would comment. For Ellis, will be sorry to see you go, I think I'm not far behind. I miss the only counterpart, the good Marine Colonel. I wonder if he is still alive?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 12, 2014 | 9:37 a.m.

Skip, I don't think Ellis is leaving the site, just going on a business trip and offline for a time.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 12, 2014 | 6:17 p.m.

Skip and John Schultz:

Skip, John is correct. I have absolutely NO intention of leaving the Missourian READER COMMENT site. Now that I've made that point (and probably ruined someone's entire week) I must get back to my bisiness.

This message originates from deepest, darkest Phelps County, Missouri, aka "Arkansas del Norte." The farm fields in northern Missouri look fine this year; we here will have, as we always do, a bumper crop of rocks to harvest this autumn. Rocks grow very well in these parts. :)

So far as I am aware, Colonel Miller is still with us.

(Report Comment)

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