This column will do little to advance my popularity with many of my political persuasion; however, no debate can arrive at a reasonable solution when it is continually stoked by unreasonable and irresponsible hyperbole. Illegal immigration is indeed a problem that cries out for solution, but, without a reasoned approach, any rational compromise is doomed.
The public is being poorly served by the irrational histrionics of radio talk show hosts, few of whom have ever resided on or near the borders, have any experience in the employment of lower income and low skilled workers or appear to have read the proposed legislation.
Their offered solutions, along with those who allow such people to think for them and the many members of Congress who place politicizing ahead of problem-curing, include the catch phrases “close the border now,” “deport all illegal aliens” and “just enforce the laws on the books” to stir the public. But one must be realistic about resolving overnight an issue that has been neglected for generations.
To those who adhere to the overly simplistic view of border closure first ahead of considering those 12 million immigrants already among us, you are living in a dream world. Shutting down our southern boundary, while not impossible, is neither feasible nor possible without concurrently addressing those who, like it or not, are here now and largely gainfully employed. The grand scheme of a border fence, the brainchild of those detached from practical reality, is an expensive and time-consuming project without merit. The Great Wall of China was 200 years in construction and stopped no one.
Proponents of immediate deportation are even more delusional in that it is not only an impossible undertaking but also an impending economic disaster. Imagine if you will, buses lined two abreast from San Diego to the Canadian border and the hopeless task of rounding up illegeal immigrants — staging, feeding and delivering them to Greyhound. It is long past time to bite the bullet and accept some salient facts: they are here, they are employed and they must be dealt with under those circumstances. It is also time we lose the “A” word (amnesty), which is purely inflammatory semantics, and face reality.
Immigrants, legal as well as illegal, are here for employment and will continue to arrive for employment. Common sense should dispel the quick-fix notions abounding out there. Advocating the mass fining and jailing of those who hire illegal immigrants sounds simple enough until one realizes the computer has raised the forging of ID cards to a virtually undetectable art. And, how does one address the economic distress of those who are legally employed but lose their jobs due to the subsequent bankruptcy of the employer?
Among the most vocal arguments of those opposed to temporary worker status for some and a path to citizenship for others is the oft-heard “they are taking jobs from American citizens.” Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt — the current 4.5 percent unemployment rate is considered full employment by Department of Labor standards — so, just whose jobs have they filched? The premise “there are no jobs that Americans won’t take” might be factual; however, employers are not merely looking for those who want jobs, rather they seek applicants who will actually work — there is a difference.
Most immigrants who come here have no history of a state security net but know full well they must earn their keep, while many of our “finest” have discovered those overly generous welfare programs that enable them to eschew honest labor. The dilemma is not impassable; nevertheless, adult leadership is necessary for reasonable compromise. There is no ironclad guarantee for success but there is one for failure — the attempt to please everyone.
Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.